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Thursday, 24 January 2013

COMMISSIONER SUPPORTS "UNDULY LENIENT SENTENCES (RIGHT OF APPEAL) BILL".

 

Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer has supported a 10 minute "Unduly Lenient Sentences (Right of Appeal) Bill" which was presented to the House of Commons on 22 January.

Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford, presented the Bill to extend the powers of prosecuting authorities to appeal against unduly lenient sentences imposed in the Criminal Courts.

The Bill is designed to balance the scales of justice to ensure that sentencing can be challenged for both victims and offenders and to redress the inequality of the defence being able to appeal against any sentence and yet, in the vast majority of cases, the prosecution are prevented from appealing.

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, this right should be available to the prosecution in far more cases.

John Dwyer said, "This Bill perfectly complements my manifesto commitment to introduce sense in sentencing where victims are often left bewildered and scared as offenders receive lenient sentences. I want a sentencing process that strikes the balance, embracing severity and strictness when needed. At present we have an appeals procedure that 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."

Under current UK criminal procedure, defence teams can appeal any sentence that they feel has been too tough. This ability is automatic for sentences given at the Magistrates 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 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.

A number of MPs have already offered their support for the Bill which will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 2 March 2013.

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