Amendment 196A

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (7th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 10th November 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Advocate-General for Scotland 6:00 pm, 10th November 2021

This is about a completely new topic that we have not addressed before, which is the unduly lenient sentence scheme. The scheme allows the Attorney-General to refer to the Court of Appeal a sentence which he or she regards as being unduly lenient. Only the Attorney-General can do it, there is a 28-day period for referral from the date at which the judge has passed the sentence which is impugned by the unduly lenient sentence application, and it applies only to particular identified serious crimes. From time to time, there is a review of which crimes to which it refers, and the crimes have been changed from time to time—always increased, not reduced. It does not apply to the crimes to which it applies if they are tried in the youth court.

One of the great campaigners for change in relation to this is Tracey Hanson, whose son Josh was brutally stabbed to death in October 2015. The person who committed the murder absconded in a private plane, and many years went by before he was finally arrested and charged, convicted of murder and given a life sentence with a minimum sentence of 26 years. Josh’s mother took the view, completely understandably, that this was an unduly lenient sentence. She knew nothing about the unduly lenient sentence scheme until she was told about it on the 28th day. She got in touch with the Attorney-General’s chambers, who said that it was out of office hours and too late to make an application. It would have had to be the Attorney-General who made it, not Tracy Hanson, so the opportunity was completely lost.

Amendment 196A proposes that the Secretary of State for Justice would nominate a government department —almost certainly the CPS—to inform victims and their families of the type of sentence that has been passed, the time limit for an application to be made by the Attorney-General, and that an application by a victim or their family for an increase in the sentence should be made to the Attorney-General, so you do not end up in a circumstance where the victim finds out only at the very last moment that this right exists.

Amendment 196B would allow in very exceptional circumstances the time limit of 28 days which applies to the ULS scheme to be extended. It should be extended only in exceptional circumstances. Those circumstances should include but not be limited to where the relevant body which is obliged to notify the victim or the victim’s family of the existence of the scheme fails to do so. If there was this limited discretion to extend the 28-day period, that would avoid the feeling of injustice that Josh’s mother and the rest of her family experienced.

My Amendment 196C says that, within 12 months from the date upon which the Bill becomes law, the Secretary of State shall undertake a review of the offences to be included within the scope of the ULS scheme to allow consideration of whether other offences should be added. Amendment 196D seeks to render cases tried in the youth court, where they are for one of the index offences, also subject to the ULS scheme. I beg to move.