I am presenting a 10 minute rule Bill (which is a form of Private Member’s Bill) to the House of Commons on 22nd January.
The short title of the Bill is “Unduly Lenient Sentences (Right of Appeal) Bill“, and the long title is “A Bill to extend the powers of prosecuting authorities to appeal against unduly lenient sentences imposed in the Criminal Courts.”
Under current UK criminal procedure, defence teams can appeal any sentence that 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.
My Bill is therefore designed to balance the scales and ensure that sentencing can be challenged for both victims and offenders. I have already met with the Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling) and will be meeting with the Attorney General (Dominic Grieve) to discuss my Bill in finer detail. A number of MP’s have also already offered their support for the Bill.