Public to be given power to challenge ‘lenient’ sentences of sex offenders under new plans

Posted On: 
17th September 2019

Victims and the wider public will be able to challenge the prison sentences handed to sex offenders if they believe them to be “unduly lenient” under new Government reforms.

Ministers have unveiled plans to add 14 more offences to the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme
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Those convicted of child sex abuse crimes, including taking and distributing indecent images of children, could be targeted by the new rules.

The Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme has been in place for 30 years and allows anyone to ask the Attorney General to refer certain sentences for review if they believe them to be too low.

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The programme already covers offences such as murder, robbery, and a range of terror offences.

Its expansion to 14 further offences will also include certain crimes involving controlling and coercive behaviour, stalking and harassment.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 99 criminals saw their sentences hiked following reviews by the courts in 2018.

Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, said: “We are determined that those found guilty of heinous crimes such as child sex offences receive the sentences their actions warrant.

“Sentences are decided by our independent judiciary based on the facts before them, but it is absolutely right that victims have a voice in the system when punishments don’t appear to fit the crime.

“We are today sending a clear message that this government will use every tool at its disposal to make sure justice is done and the public is kept safe.”

The Solicitor General, Michael Ellis, said: “The Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme can bring comfort to victims and their families across the country. The latest extension means that the Attorney General and I can look at even more sentences which look like they don’t fit the crime.

“Anyone can apply to the scheme and although there is a high bar to any appeal we will do everything we can to challenge a sentence that we regard to be clearly wrong.”