Over 100 criminals given tougher punishments under 'unduly lenient' sentence scheme

Victims and members of the public can query punishments
Victims and members of the public can query punishments
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Rapists and killers were among 137 criminals given tougher penalties following complaints their original sentences were too soft last year.

Victims and members of the public can query punishments handed down by courts for certain serious offences.

New figures published by the Attorney General's office show it received 943 requests for a review under the unduly lenient sentence (ULS) scheme in 2017, up from 837 in the previous year.

The Attorney and Solicitor General referred 173 sentences to the Court of Appeal to be looked at again, compared to 190 in 2016.

Last year, 137 offenders had their sentences increased, a slight fall compared to a record 141 in the previous 12 months.

Punishments were made more severe for crimes including murder, manslaughter, rape, burglary, and drug-related offences.

The Attorney General's office noted that the number of increased sentences is a very small proportion of 80,000 crown court cases heard each year.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC said: "The unduly lenient sentence scheme allows victims of crime, their families and the public to ask for a review of certain sentences that they believe are far too low.

"We only have 28 days from the date of sentencing to refer a case to the Court of Appeal.

"Unusually, there is no way to extend this deadline, this means we require a referral very early in the process to be able to deal with it in time.

"A sentencing exercise is not an exact science and in the vast majority of cases, judges get it right.

"For an offence there is a range within which a judge might sentence properly.

"The scheme is available to ensure that the Court of Appeal can review cases where there may have been a gross error in the sentencing decision."

Rape and other serious sexual crimes accounted for the highest number of cases where the punishment was revised up in 2017, with 58, followed by acquisitive offences such as burglary, theft and fraud, and serious assault offences, with 19 each.

Sentences were increased for 15 homicide and related crimes.

The ULS scheme, which covers England and Wales, was extended last year to include an additional 19 terror-related offences.

Only one person needs to ask for a sentence to be reviewed under the initiative, and anyone can make a request.