Gareth Johnson continues campaign for more balanced right of appeal against sentences

Date: Fri 15th March 2013

In meetings with Ministry of Justice Policy Officials yesterday Gareth again pushed for the rights of the prosecution to appeal unduly lenient sentences to be extended to more closely match those currently available to the defence.

The discussions built on proposals he first raised in his 10 minute rule Bill, the “Unduly Lenient Sentences (Right of Appeal) Bill“, introduced to the House at the end of January.

Under current UK criminal procedure, defence teams can appeal any sentence they feel has been too tough. This ability is automatic against sentences given at the Magistrates Court or Youth Court or through leave of a Judge against Crown Court sentences. Conversely the prosecution cannot appeal at all against unduly lenient sentences where they are imposed in the Magistrates Court or Youth Court and only for a handful of offences when sentencing takes place in the Crown Court. For example, a person sentenced in the Crown Court for a handful of sexual offences, some serious assault and public order matters, burglary or dangerous driving cannot currently be subject to a prosecution appeal, even where a prosecutor believes that the sentence was too lenient.

Currently it is only the most serious of cases that can be appealed by the prosecution. This includes rape, murder, and serious robbery. In some cases the sentence can be substantially changed on appeal, further supporting the argument that this right should be available to the prosecution in far more cases.

This leaves us with a current appeals procedure that inherently favours the rights of the offender over the rights of the victim. It also allows the Courts to be as lenient as they like without redress, yet subject to appeal if they are robust.

Gareth commented that;

“It is important that I keep pressing this issue with the Department of Justice and this meeting enabled me to do just this. I want to see the prosecution have greater rights to appeal against unduly lenient sentences than they currently have. My campaign seeks to address the imbalance that exists between the rights of the defendant to appeal and the rights of the victim. The talks were very productive and further consideration to changing the law will be given by the Department. I am becoming increasingly optimistic that I am winning the argument on this issue and I am determined to keep pushing this issue as far as I can.”