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Attorney-General Reference Cases

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on her practice in appointing trial counsel in Attorney-General reference cases. [125995]

The Crown Prosecution Service instructs counsel on behalf of the Attorney-General in Attorney-General reference cases. These are cases that are referred to the Court of Appeal under section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972 and sections 35 and 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 either on a point of law or because they come within the unduly lenient sentence provisions, under which the Attorney-General refers a case to the Court of Appeal to have the sentence reviewed on the grounds that it is unduly lenient.The Crown Prosecution Service usually instructs Senior Treasury Counsel or Junior Treasury Counsel to undertake this work. Treasury Counsel are very experienced counsel, used by the Crown for serious work. When instructing counsel, the Crown Prosecution Service considers the seniority of counsel, the specialist areas of work in which counsel practises and the ability of counsel to return work at the specified time. In deciding which counsel to instruct, the Crown Prosecution Service strives to promote consistency in the decision-making, process.In cases concerning potentially unduly lenient sentences it is considered to be of particular benefit to have new counsel to consider the facts. Consistency in these applications is maintained by restricting them to Treasury Counsel, who build up expertise in this field of work.