As the House will be aware, a major change in the law was brought in in 1988 to allow victims to be able to challenge unduly lenient sentences. At the moment, that applies to the most serious indictable offences, but the Government have recently extended it to a range of terrorist offences.
I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but as he well knows the Government have promised for quite some time—including in our manifesto—to extend it to a further range of offences. When will the Government pull their finger out and extend the number of cases that can be appealed for being unduly lenient, as we have been promising for quite some time?
As I have already said in my answer, the most serious offences—murder and so on—are already covered by the unduly lenient sentence scheme. We have extended it twice in the past few years, but we are talking very closely to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General about looking at other opportunities to extend the scheme.
The Secretary of State will know that I regularly write to him about unduly lenient and unduly severe sentences, but I never ever seem to get a reply. The fact is that too many women are locked up for non-violent offences for long periods of time, and that is the sort of case that I write to him about. Why do we never get any comeback?
It is reassuring to know that I am not the only person to whom the hon. Gentleman regularly writes. I am grateful to him for confirming that important fact on the Floor of the House.
To get to the nub of the hon. Gentleman’s question, there is a very serious issue here, which is that it is absolutely true that there are many more women in prison than we would like. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee), is working very hard to reduce that population for exactly the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
While I welcome the fact that victims can ask for a review in relation to unduly lenient sentences, there is an absolute 28-day limit on that. A criminal case can be very traumatising for victims. Will the Minister consider perhaps introducing a discretion in relation to that 28-day absolute limit?
That is a very interesting idea. Perhaps the hon. Lady and I can sit down to discuss that interesting idea in more detail.