The Attorney General’s Office has released statistics for 2011 sentences 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.
Last year, 117 sentences, from 78 cases, were referred to the Court of Appeal by the Law Officers. The Court considered 97 of them were unduly lenient (83%) and 94 sentences were increased (80% of the 117 referred).
Cases are usually referred to the Attorney General by the Crown Prosecution Service, but it is open also to victims, their families, members of the public and MPs to ask for review. In 2011 the sentences passed on 377 offenders were drawn to the attention of the Attorney General and Solicitor General (the Law Officers), compared to 342 in 2010 and 369 in 2009.
The Attorney General, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP said:
The unduly lenient sentence scheme allows anyone to refer a sentence to me for consideration. In the vast majority of cases judges impose sentences which are appropriate to meet the justice of the case, but the scheme provides an important safeguard in those few cases in which the sentence falls significantly outside the proper range.
The Solicitor General, Edward Garnier QC MP:
Sentencing is not a precise science. It requires judgments to be made about a whole host of different factors, including any aggravating and mitigating features, and how any relevant guidelines should be applied.
These statistics are only part of the story. Where there have been mistakes, in relation to the acceptance of pleas by the prosecution, these errors are followed up with the lawyers concerned to ensure they are not repeated.
Of the 377 sentences drawn to the attention of the AGO as being possibly unduly lenient in 2011, 299 fell within the scheme and were considered.