Occasionally, the Attorney General will refer a case to the Court of Appeal because they believe the sentence to be ‘unduly lenient’. Here, our criminal defence solicitors explain what this means and how the process works.

The Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme

In 1989, the law was changed to enable the Attorney General to refer cases to the Court of Appeal when the sentence is considered ‘unduly lenient’. The Attorney General is the chief legal adviser to the Crown in England and Wales.

So, how does it work?

Firstly, a defendant is convicted, meaning they are found guilty. Afterwards, the Judge or Magistrates must decide on a suitable sentence. The sentencer must follow sentencing guidelines when making this decision.

Unduly lenient sentence examples.

Sometimes, the sentence handed out is thought to be too soft, known in legal jargon as ‘unduly lenient’. If so, the Attorney General may be asked to refer the case to the Court of Appeal so that the sentence can be reconsidered. Anyone can make this request, be it the victim, the victim’s family, or a random member of the public.

However, the Attorney General can only refer certain cases, such as serious cases that have been dealt with by the Crown Court (amongst others). The Attorney General must also refer the case within 28 days of the sentence being passed.

The Attorney General will consider the request. If the Attorney General considers that the sentence might be unduly lenient, the case is passed to the Court of Appeal for review. The Court of Appeal will then decide whether or not the sentence should be increased, remain the same, or reduced.

The Court of Appeal only increases a sentence where it falls outside the range of sentences which, when all factors considered, could reasonably be considered appropriate.

How many cases are referred for review?

In 2021, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General received 678 applications which met the necessary criteria for review by the Court of Appeal. Of these, 151 were referred to the Court of Appeal, resulting in 106 sentences being increased. This included the sentence of Frankie Smith who played a role in the death of one-year-old Star Hobson.

How can we help you?

If your case is referred to the Attorney General, and subsequently to the Court of Appeal, we will help you navigate the situation. As our client, you benefit from our expert legal advice and representation for the duration of proceedings.

Contact us now

Do you need a criminal defence lawyer? Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also email us on enquiries@ashmanssolicitors.com or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form and we will contact you.