The government has expanded a scheme which allows victims to challenge prison sentences they consider to be too lenient, so that it now includes victims of child sexual abuse, stalking and harassment.
Members of the public can also challenge sentences they feel are too lenient.
The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme will be extended to include 14 new offences, which will give victims of these offences the power to challenge sentences handed down for the crimes they have experienced.
However, the bar for cases to be accepted for review is set high, according to the Solicitor General, Michael Ellis QC MP.
The amendment covers controlling and coercive behaviour, as well as additional child sexual abuse offences, such as those involving the taking, distributing and publishing of indecent images of children and abusing a position of trust with a child.
Under the Scheme, prosecutors, victims of crime, their family and the public can ask the Attorney General for a review of certain sentences they believe is too low.
The Attorney Generals’ Office then has 28 days after sentencing to make a decision.
If the Attorney General thinks the request is appropriate, the case will be sent to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration – where the sentence could be increased if judges rule that the original sentence was unduly lenient.
The press release offers an example of how the scheme works in practice, mentioning an intervention where the Court of Appeal increased the sentence of a mother who allowed her partner to rape her daughter, from three to five years in prison.
Crimes such as murder, robbery, and some terror offences are already covered by the Scheme.
In 2018, the Scheme was used to increase the sentences handed down to 99 criminals, following a review by the courts.
The government has extended the scheme to include the following offences:
- Abuse of position of trust: sexual activity with a child (s.16, Sexual Offences Act 2003),
- Abuse of position of trust: causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity (s.17, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Abuse of position of trust: sexual activity in the presence of a child (s.18, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Abuse of position of trust: causing a child to watch a sexual act (s.19, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Inciting a child family member to engage in sexual activity (s.26, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice (s.30, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Causing or inciting a person, with a mental disorder impeding choice, to engage in sexual activity (s.31, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a person with a mental disorder impeding choice (s.32, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Causing a person, with a mental disorder impeding choice, to watch a sexual act (s.33, Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Possession of indecent photograph of a child (Criminal Justice Act 1988, s.160)
- Taking, possessing, distributing, publishing Indecent Photographs of Children (s.1 Protection of Children Act 1978)
- Harassment: putting people in fear of violence (s.4, Protection from Harassment Act 1997)
- Stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress (Protection from Harassment Act 1997, s.4A, Protection from Harassment Act 1997)
- Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship (s.76, Serious Crime Act 201,).