Wednesday, January 06, 2016

UK: Complaints over soft jail terms rocket by 97% following anger that paedophiles, killers and rapists are being let off with lenient sentences

Complaints about lenient sentences imposed by judges have risen sharply amid concerns criminals are being let off with unduly soft punishments.

The latest figures show that in 2014 there were 674 complaints made on behalf of victims following anger that sentences handed to killers, paedophiles, robbers and rapists were not tough enough – a rise of 97 per cent on the 342 made in 2010.

Now attorney general Jeremy Wright, Britain’s top law officer, is boosting the number of prosecutors available to challenge lenient sentences and help tackle the rising caseload.

In 2014 the attorney general referred 122 cases to the Court of Appeal – up 42 per cent since 2010.  Since 2011, 322 sentences have been beefed up after complaints.

Under the attorney general’s pilot scheme announced today, the prosecutors who can appeal using the Unduly Lenient Sentences (ULS) scheme is to be widened from Treasury counsel – a small group of 18 senior barristers who take on such cases on behalf of the Government – to about 800 lawyers.

Mr Wright said: ‘It’s vital that the public are able to legally challenge custodial sentences and to make sure offences are being properly punished. With the number of referrals increasing, it is right that we look at ways to widen the approach.’

Under the ULS, members of the public can ask the attorney general to examine sentences they believe to be very low.

It is reserved for certain types of case including murder, rape, robbery and some child sex crimes. Government law officers may then ask the Court of Appeal to look at the sentence.

The punishment can be kept the same, increased or the court can issue guidance for future cases.

In July 2013, disgraced BBC presenter Stuart Hall had his sentence for a series of sex assaults on young girls doubled after Appeal Court judges ruled his 15-month term was ‘inadequate’ and should be increased to 30 months.

Last month, Martin Tom, 26, from Beccles, Suffolk, who raped a woman during a burglary while high on crack cocaine, had his sentence increased from five years and four months to seven-and-a-half-years by the Court of Appeal.

Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench Division and one of the country’s most senior judges, said: ‘The number of sentences found to be unduly lenient following consideration by the attorney general continues to be low – a very small fraction of the many thousands of offenders sentenced in the Crown Court.’

Original report here

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