News story

Sentences examined by the Attorney General in 2010

Report on Crown Court sentences thought to be too low and sent to the Court of Appeal.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Attorney General’s Office has released figures on Unduly Lenient Sentence cases which were considered too low – or unduly lenient - and referred to the Court of Appeal, which can quash a sentence and impose a higher one.

  • 77 sentences were referred by the Law Officers. The Court considered 65 of them were unduly lenient (84%) and 60 sentences were increased (78% of the 77 referred)

  • In 2009, the sentences of 71 offenders were increased out of 108 reviewed by the Court of Appeal (66%). In 2008 52 sentences were increased out of 71 reviewed by the Court (73%).

  • In 2010 sentences passed on 342 offenders were drawn to the attention of both the previous incumbent, the Rt Hon Baroness Scotland QC, (from Jan to May 10,) and the present Attorney, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP (from May to Dec 10) compared to 369 in 2009 and 274 in 2008.

Dominic Grieve said:

I believe that the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme plays an important role in maintaining public confidence in sentencing as a vital tool in the criminal justice system, as well as being an important part of our role as guardians of the public interest. It is the only means by which anyone - especially victims or their families - can have an apparently unduly lenient sentence examined.

Solicitor General Edward Garnier QC MP, added:

Unduly lenient sentences are rare. There are tens of thousands of sentences passed each year in the Crown Courts in England and Wales and in the vast majority of cases, the judge’s approach meets the justice of each case. The scheme provides an opportunity for the Court of Appeal to identify how sentencing in certain types of case should be approached.

Sentencing requires judgments to be made about the weight to be attached to all the relevant considerations including aggravating and mitigating factors, and how any relevant guidelines should be applied. It may be reasonable to pass a sentence which is lenient, or which is harsher than the guidelines might suggest, on the particular facts of an individual case.

Some cases referred to the Court of Appeal in 2010 included:

  • On 3 March 2011, the Solicitor General presented 3 cases where the victims were sexually assaulted or raped in their homes or another place where they were entitled to feel safe. In 2 of the cases, the victims were subjected to the added humiliation of having pictures taken of the attack. The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Mr Justice Henriques and Mr Justice Davis ruled that the sentences were unduly lenient, and issued guidance to sentencing judges that in a case where a violent sexual attack has been committed after or in the course of burglary in a home - even if there are no additional features beyond the rape and the burglary - the starting point will rarely be less than 12 years’ imprisonment.

  • Matthias Dawson, a 29-year-old offender, violently attacked his pregnant, estranged wife in a hospital car park. He knocked her to the ground and repeatedly kicked her to the head. The Attorney General, presented this case to the Court of Appeal on 9 December 2010 and the defendant saw his original sentence of 12 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years with a 2-year supervision order, quashed and replaced with one of 4 years’ imprisonment

  • 49-year-old Maureen Cunniam visited the home of her near neighbours, an elderly couple, and carried out a sustained and violent attack on them with a baseball bat. She had her 3 and a half year sentence quashed and replaced with one of 10 years.

  • Offender “X” received a 7-year sentence for 6 counts of raping his wife which the Court of Appeal overturned and replaced with one of 11 years.

  • Michael Charnley was jailed for 5 years for downloading and retaining 11,000 indecent images and 356 films containing indecent images of children aged between 2 and 17, over a period of 18 months. They included images of rape and sadism. In addition, on 35 occasions, over a period of 2 and a half months between June 09 and the date of his arrest, the offender had contacted adults in the Far East via the internet who, for payment, provided children aged from 2 to 12 years for the offender to view and record as he caused or incited the children to engage in sexual activity. Lord Justice Moses said that this court has a duty to pass appropriate sentences to deter others committing these types of offences; he then quashed the original sentence and replaced it with one of 12 years imprisonment.

  • Vasile Oaches and Vasile Maris received 30 and 24 months’ imprisonment respectively for trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation and controlling prostitution for gain. The men met the 19-year-old victim in Romania and lured her and her friend to the UK with the prospect of a decent job. A third young woman was collected en route to the UK. Once there the women were required to work as street prostitutes and the offenders took their earnings. The victim was slapped and threatened by Oaches. She was also required to have sex with friends of Oaches, in lieu of payment for rent. The victim managed to escape with the help of another man she knew from Romania. The ULS hearing took place in September 2010 and the men saw their sentences increased to 4 and 3 years respectively.

Published 21 July 2011