19:17, August 05 157 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-05 19:17:06
Slight fall in number of sentences revised up in 2017 after complaints

Rapists and killers were among 137 people given tougher penalties after complaints that their original sentences were too lenient last year, official figures for England and Wales show.

Victims and members of the public can challenge tariffs handed down for certain serious offences via the unduly lenient sentence (ULS) scheme overseen by the Attorney General’s Office.

The AGO figures for last year show a slight decrease in the number of sentences referred to the court of appeal as well as the number of offenders whose sentences were increased. This was despite a rise in review requests.

The AGO received 943 requests under the ULS scheme in 2017, up from 837 in the previous year. The attorney and solicitor general referred 173 sentences to the court of appeal for re-examination , compared with 190 in 2016.

There were increases for 137 offenders in 2017, down on a record 141 during the previous 12 months.

Tariffs were made more severe for crimes including murder, manslaughter, rape, burglary, and drug-related offences.

The AGO noted that the number of increased sentences accounted for a very small proportion of 80,000 crown court cases heard each year.

The solicitor general, Robert Buckland QC, said: “The unduly lenient sentence scheme allows victims of crime, their families and the public to ask for a review of certain sentences they believe are far too low.

“We only have 28 days from the date of sentencing to refer a case to the court of appeal. There is no way to extend this deadline. This means we require a referral very early in the process to be able to deal with it in time.

“A sentencing exercise is not an exact science and in the vast majority of cases, judges get it right. For an offence there is a range within which a judge might sentence properly.

“The scheme is available to ensure that the court of appeal can review cases where there may have been a gross error in the sentencing decision.”

Rape and other serious sexual crimes accounted for the highest number of cases for which the tariff was revised up in 2017, with 58. This was followed by acquisitive offences such as burglary, theft and fraud, and serious assault offences, with 19 each.

Sentences were increased for 15 homicide and related crimes.

The ULS scheme, which covers England and Wales, was extended last year to include an additional 19 terrorism-related offences.

Only one person needs to ask for a sentence to be reviewed under the initiative, and anyone can make a request.