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Monthly Archives: October 2019

The prosecution, via the Attorney General, has the right to ask the Court of Appeal to consider whether sentences for certain offences are unduly lenient.

unduly lenient sentence

How does the scheme work?

Anyone can ask the Attorney General to consider whether a case has resulted in an unduly lenient sentence. If the Attorney agrees an appeal will be lodged within 28 days of that sentence and the court will consider the matter.

This scheme is essential protection against sentences that are too lenient.

We have previously posted about the scheme here.

Can it be used for any offence?

There is a list of offences that the unduly lenient sentence scheme applies to.  It is a relatively extensive list, but the government has announced that further offences are soon to be added to it.

How often are appeals lodged?

The Attorney General does not invite the court to interfere lightly.  Even though around 1,000 requests for a review are made each year only a fraction are referred to the court.  Typically between 100 and 150 sentences are increased each year.

In all cases where an appeal is heard, we will fight extremely hard to prevent any increase in sentence.

unduly lenient sentence

What offences are to be added to the list?

The following offences will be added:

  • 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 (s.160 Criminal Justice Act 1988)
  • 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 (s.4A Protection from Harassment Act 1997)
  • Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship (s.76 Serious Crime Act 2017).

How we can help

If you have instructed VHS Fletchers in your case after your sentencing we will give you immediate advice if we have concerns that there may be a complaint that you have received an unduly lenient sentence.  Unfortunately, the process is out of our hands however and we have no control over whether or not a reference is made.

In the event of an appeal, a great deal of work can be done on your behalf to prepare your case for this next stage.  Thorough preparation can make all the difference as to whether or not the court of appeal interferes with your sentence.

If you face an appeal on the basis that you received an unduly lenient sentence or are concerned about any aspect of criminal law or sentencing then do not hesitate to contact your nearest office to speak to a criminal law specialist.

attorney general's reference unduly lenient sentence

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.



Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Sentencing Council is consulting on a new guideline for some of the most commonly prosecuted firearms offences.  At the moment, guidance is to be found only in case law.  This can lead to a challenging sentencing exercise.

The purpose of the guideline is to provide consistency in sentencing for firearms offences.  The impact assessment does not suggest that any general increase in sentences is to be expected, although in many instances the Sentencing Council was met with a weak evidence base to evaluate this one way or the other.

If consistency is achieved, then you could expect some sentences to increase and some decrease.  Overall average sentence lengths for firearms offences should remain broadly level. However, experience with some other guidelines does suggest that sentence length may creep upwards.

Overall, we would expect it to be easier to predict the likely sentence that a person might receive on a plea or after trial.

One interesting observation is concerning statutory minimum sentences for some offences:

“The Council was surprised to note that exceptional circumstances were being found in around two thirds of disguised weapons cases (section 5(1A)(a)) which appeared to run counter to the principle that in order to justify the disapplication of the five year minimum, the circumstances of the case must be truly exceptional.”

The Council, therefore, felt that:

“Setting out the principles in a guideline is likely to lead to them being more consistently applied, which in turn could lead to exceptional circumstances being found in fewer cases.”

It was also noted that recent changes to Crown Prosecution Service charging guidance for some firearms offences would in itself lead to fewer mandatory sentence cases being prosecuted.

You can read more about the prosecution guidance here.

Cases where we argued to avoid a minimum sentence for our clients can be found here

and here

disguised firearm

Which firearms offences will the new guideline cover?

Eight guidelines will cover the following offences in the Firearms Act 1968:

  • Possession, purchase or acquisition of a prohibited weapon or ammunition
  • Possession, purchase or acquisition of a firearm, ammunition or shotgun without a certificate
  • Possession of a firearm or ammunition by person with previous convictions prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition
  • Carrying a firearm in a public place
  • Possession of firearm with intent to endanger life
  • Possession of firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence
  • Use of firearm or imitation firearm to resist arrest, possession of firearm or imitation firearm while committing a Schedule 1 offence or carrying firearm or imitation firearm with criminal intent
  • Manufacture or sell or transfer or possess for sale or transfer or purchase or acquire for sale or transfer a prohibited weapon or ammunition.

The consultation runs until mid-January, so it is likely to be Summer 2020 before any new guidelines take effect.  That is not to say, however, that some judges will not have them in mind before then.

firearms offences

The link to the consultation can be found here.

Instruct a firearms offences expert

Although all of our lawyers are experienced in providing advice and representation in cases involving the unlawful possession of a firearm, our clients are also fortunate to be able to instruct firearms specialist Andrew Broome.

You can read about a successful defence of such a case here.

Firearms offences will always have the potential to be treated seriously by the courts upon conviction.  As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about any offending arising from your possession of a firearm then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early advice legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.

Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

We have offices across the East Midlands and will happily travel across the country to provide representation for all football related offences.

VHS Fletchers solicitors offices
VHS Fletchers offices across the East Midlands

Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.


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