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Record number of criminals have sentences increased


The Guardian

Sex offenders among 141 people given tougher punishment last year under Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme, which lets public appeal to attorney general

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Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, said the scheme allows reviews of cases where there ‘may have been an error in the sentencing decision’. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A record number of criminals have had their sentences increased after victims and their families complained that they had been treated too leniently.

Arsonists, sex offenders and two men found guilty of child neglect were among those to be sent to prison after initially being handed a community sentence, with a total of 141 criminals given a tougher punishment last year. In 2015, the courts agreed to increase the original sentence for 102 offenders.

The increased sentences were made as part of the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) procedure, under which the public can ask the attorney general to toughen the sentence of someone prosecuted for a serious crime.

While the numbers having their sentences strengthened remains relatively low, the scheme has become increasingly popular. The number of cases considered by the attorney general’s office has increased by over 108% since 2010, from 342 to 713 requests in 2015.

The latest figures show that 32 criminals had their community sentence quashed and replaced with an immediate custodial sentence. Of those, 17 sex offenders who originally avoided prison were given jail time. A rapist and someone convicted of attempted murder were handed a life sentence and now can only be released with permission from the parole board.

The scheme will be expanded next month to cover an additional 19 terror-related offences, including supporting extremist organisations, encouraging acts of terror or failing to disclose information about a terrorist attack. In 2016, 837 referrals were received by the attorney general’s office.

Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, said: “The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme allows victims of crime, their families and the public to challenge sentences that they believe are too low, and last year we saw a record number of sentences increased.

“A sentencing exercise is not an exact science and, in the vast majority of cases, judges get it right. The scheme is available to ensure that the solicitor general and I can independently review those cases where there may have been an error in the sentencing decision.”

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