MP calls for changes to unduly lenient sentence scheme as complaints rejected

Hundreds of complaints that criminals have been given unduly lenient sentences have been rejected because of a legal loophole, it has emerged.

Some 228 requests for sentences to be toughened up were made in 2015, according to the figures from the Attorney General's Office.

But fraudsters, criminals convicted of making indecent photographs, and a boy convicted in a youth court of rape are among those whose sentences could not be looked at again because of rules restricting the use of the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

The revelation follows anger last week when hate preacher Anjem Choudary was jailed for just five-and-a-half years for drumming up support for Islamic State.

Despite complaints minsters were powerless to challenge the sentence.

Conservative MP Gareth Johnson, whose written parliamentary question uncovered the numbers, said the current set-up is "absolutely bonkers".

He told the Press Association: "It is frustrating to those people, very often victims, who have said 'my house is burgled by this person and they have got a pathetic sentence, I want you to review the sentence'.

"The Attorney General has had to say 'no I can't'."

"It is bonkers, absolutely bonkers."

Under the existing unduly lenient scheme, victims of crime and the public can ask for a sentence to be increased, but only in certain cases such as serious violence or sexual offences.

Last year's Conservative Party manifesto promised to "extend the scope" of the scheme but the Government has so far failed to widen it.

Serious crimes including burglary, ABH, causing death by careless driving and sexual activity - abuse of position of trust, are not in the scheme.

Mr Johnson said that defence solicitors can request that all sentences felt to be too harsh are re-examined, but not all victims who think they are too lenient are given the same rights.

He said: "Judges get things right most of the time, but like all human beings they get it wrong sometimes and there needs to be a check and balance in place to ensure we don't allow unduly lenient sentences to remain unchallenged.

"It is only right for the victim of the crime that an appropriate sentence is imposed, and where that doesn't happen that should be changed.

"The whole point of the criminal justice system is to protect people, and the system we have at the moment doesn't."

The figures released show that the number of requests for unduly lenient sentences to be looked at but dismissed because they are not in the scheme has nearly quadrupled in four years.

Just 62 requests were rejected for this reason in 2011, with 75 in 2012, 131 in 2013, 194 in 2014 and 228 in 2015.

These figures relate to the number of requests, not cases, and can refer to the same person.

In a brief statement accompanying the figures, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said: "The Government has committed to extending the scope of the unduly lenient sentence scheme and is carefully considering its approach."

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