Currently, only Treasury Counsel participates on behalf of the Government under the ULS scheme, which gives anyone the right to challenge judicial sentences in a certain range of offences.
Grade 4 prosecution advocates will now be eligible to participate in a 6 month pilot period undertaking ULS casework normally reserved for Treasury Counsel.
After the 6 month trial, the programme will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC MP said:
“It’s vital that the public are able to legally challenge custodial sentences and to make sure offences are being properly punished.
“This trial extension is a great opportunity for experienced lawyers to develop their skills further whilst preserving the continued effective operation of the ULS scheme. With the number of referrals increasing, it is right that we look at ways to widen the approach.”
The number of sentences considered by the Attorney General’s Office has increased by 97% since 2010, up from 342 sentences to 674 in 2014. During the same period, referrals by the Attorney General’s Office to the Court of Appeal rose 35%, from 90 to 122.
Treasury Counsel will continue to play the main role in ULS casework and the Attorney General will retain his discretion to request them to instruct in appropriate cases. There will continue to be a significant number of cases where trial sentencing advocates should not or cannot act.
For training purposes, a package of materials is being devised by the CPS Training College to assist external advocates who are unfamiliar with advising on unduly lenient sentences. This includes a comprehensive guide explaining the legal and procedural basis of references, as well as a video recording of a ULS hearing.
Notes to editors:
For more information on the ULS scheme please visit the AGO website. This also contains more information on how to complain about a low Crown Court sentence