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Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 27 October 2016

The number of sentences considered by my office under the unduly lenient sentence scheme has increased by over 108% since 2010, from 342 to 713 requests in 2015. Of those, 136 were referred to the Court of Appeal as potentially unduly lenient, with the court agreeing to increase the original sentence for 102 offenders.

Stalking causes enormous harm and distress to victims, and the Government have rightly strengthened the law in this area. Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider extending the unduly lenient sentence scheme to cover these crimes?

My hon. Friend will know that as a party we have a manifesto commitment to extend the unduly lenient sentence scheme. A number of offences are surprisingly not included in the scheme at the moment. We need to look carefully at the whole range of criminal offences to decide what should be inside and what should be outside the scheme, but he certainly makes a good case for the types of offences we might consider including in the future.

Given that the need for an unduly lenient sentence scheme has been conceded, the public are very confused as to why some offences are covered and some are not. Would it not be simpler to have a scheme that covered all offences?

My hon. Friend makes a tempting proposition to give my office a good deal more work. There is no doubt that one of the advantages of the unduly lenient sentence scheme is that it is available to the public. It does not require the intervention of lawyers and it is, I hope, easy for the public to access. It should also be easy for the public to understand, and I am therefore in favour of drawing the line between cases within the scheme and those outside in a logical and easily understandable place. I would also say that it is important to bear it in mind that, even with an extended version of the scheme, we are talking about a very small minority of cases where judges err in this way. As I said, last year 102 cases were considered under the scheme to be unduly lenient. That is out of about 80,000 sentences passed in the Crown courts that year.