The government has announced changes to the Unduly Lenient Sentence (‘ULS’) Scheme.
There are certain offences where the prosecution (via the Attorney General) can ask the Court of Appeal to review a sentence if it is thought to be unduly lenient.
Any person can ask the Attorney General to consider a sentence and decide whether or not to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.
The referral must be made within 28 days, but this period often creates a period of uncertainty and stress for an offender who has been sentenced. In some instances, a successful referral can result in a person who has been given a non-custodial sentence, being sent to prison.
The cross-Government Victims’ Strategy published on 10 September 2018 contained a commitment to keep under review and consider extending the scheme to additional offences related to stalking and harassment; indecent images of children and sexual offences.
The proposed change will fulfil this commitment by amending the Reviews of Sentencing Order to include the further fourteen serious sexual and violent offences.
The inclusion of these offences relating to sexual offending, intimidation and abuse within the ULS scheme is intended to reflect the serious and long-lasting damage they have on victims and survivors. This also rectifies a discrepancy whereby a large number of sexual offences committed against children were included in the scheme, but offences committed by people in positions of authority, and offences committed against people with a mental disorder impeding choice, were not.
The new offences that are eligible for review are:
- section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 (indecent photographs of children)
- section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (possession of indecent photograph of child)
- section 4 (putting people in fear of violence) or section 4A (stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
- section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship)
- section 16 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity with a child);
- section 17 (abuse of position of trust: causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity)
- section 18 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity in the presence of a child)
- section 19 (abuse of position of trust: causing a child to watch a sexual act)
- section 26 (inciting a child family member to engage in sexual activity);
- section 30 (sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice)
- section 31 (causing or inciting a person, with a mental disorder impeding choice, to engage in sexual activity)
- section 32 (engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a person with a mental disorder impeding choice)
- section 33 (causing a person, with a mental disorder impeding choice, to watch a sexual act).
The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Reviews of Sentencing) (Amendment) Order 2019 also rectifies two previous oversights. It adds in the attempt to commit, and the incitement, encouragement or assistance in the commission of, the two modern slavery offences to paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 via the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2015. This Order also clarifies that the offence of causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress under section 31(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is not in scope of the scheme, as it is a summary-only offence.
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