Press release

Statement from the Attorney General's Office

Decision in the unduly lenient sentence case of Rolf Harris

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

Attorney General's Office

After very careful consideration the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC MP has decided not to refer the five year and nine month sentence given to Rolf Harris to the Court of Appeal, as he did not think they would find it to be unduly lenient and increase it.

The sentencing judge was bound by the maximum sentence in force at the time of the offending. The judge made some of the sentences consecutive to reach the total sentence, but he could not simply add up sentences on individual counts; the overall sentence had to be just and proportionate to the overall offending. The judge was also required to take into account the age of the offender.

The Attorney General understands that his decision not to refer the case may be a disappointment to some people; however, he did give extremely careful consideration to this sentence and he concluded that he could not refer it.


The Law Officers, (the Attorney and Solicitor General) have the power to refer sentences to the Court of Appeal that they consider to be unduly lenient. This is a high threshold and is reserved for sentences which are more than simply lenient. A sentence will only be unduly lenient if it falls significantly below the sentence that any judge could reasonably have imposed. Even then, the Court of Appeal has a wide discretion as to whether it should actually increase a sentence in a case. The Law Officers only take decisions whether or not to refer cases to the Court of Appeal after careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances of the case, the relevant case law and any guidelines from the Sentencing Council.

Published 30 July 2014