Dartford MP calls for reforms to sentencing scheme following the death of Dartfordian Gemma Robinson

ULS debate

Dartford MP, Gareth Johnson, has urged the Government to broaden the scope of the Unduly Lenient Sentencing Scheme following the death of one of his young constituents, Gemma Robinson.

Since Mr Johnson became the MP, he has campaigned to extend the ULS scheme but the harrowing case of Gemma Robinson prompted him to do so again yesterday during a debate in Parliament.

Mr Johnson said: “Gemma Robinson from Dartford was attacked in 2019 by her partner, Joseph Falconer, in the most despicable manner. He had previously assaulted her and was subject to a restraining order but had tricked or cajoled his way back into her life and into her home. This young lady was described as the life and soul of any party, yet she was mercilessly beaten by Mr Falconer until her eye socket was fractured and her tooth punched through her lip. She was then spat on by him before he left the house and, in the final insult, he completely cleared her bank accounts.”

Mr Johnson said “Mr Falconer was arrested and charged with section 18 GBH, an offence that is covered under the Unduly Lenient Sentencing Scheme. Mr Falconer pleaded not guilty and Gemma Robinson, feeling unable to face him in court, took her own life – devastating her family. ”

Joseph Falconer was offered a less serious charge of section 20 Malicious Wounding — an offence which is not covered by the scheme.

Mr Johnson said: “Despite being described by the judge in court as a “dangerous, jealous and controlling man”, Falconer was given just three-and-a-half years imprisonment. Gemma’s family understandably felt this was insufficient and they contacted my office. Only at that stage were they made aware by my office there was no power to appeal, as malicious wounding is not covered under the scheme. Gemma Robinson’s family feel totally let down by the system and they are not alone.”

During the debate, Mr Johnson also raised the issue of the strict 28-day time limit on applications to challenge sentences, calling for it to be flexible. Numerous cross-party MPs spoke in the debate about cases which have affected their constituents.

Alex Chalk, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice responded in the debate saying the scheme is under review.

He said: “We are extending the unduly lenient system to ensure that justice can be done, and of course we will continue to keep the matter under review.”

Following the debate, Gemma’s sister, Kirsty Robinson, who has been campaigning for justice for Gemma said: “I would like to thank Gareth Johnson for raising my sister’s case today in Westminster Hall and for his perseverance and persistence about the unduly lenient sentencing for Gemma and other victims of domestic abuse as I know this is challenging and also a very sensitive subject to discuss. Gareth has managed to highlight my sister’s case extremely well and I’m delighted with how this has been presented.

I hope that the powers that be, listen to all the cases that were debated today and permit a review of the ULS scheme with all of what was debated today, which will allow the changes that are needed to be done in order to make the ULS scheme more robust so that no other families will have to go through such an unfair process of injustice as our family have.”

 

After the debate, Mr Johnson said: “This debate came about following the tragic death of Gemma Robinson. Her family understandably believe justice has not been served in her case.

 

“We need to allow people who suffer vicious assaults, such as the one Gemma suffered, to be able to appeal when sentences are unduly lenient.”