I wrote to the Attorney General to ask the Government undertake a comprehensive review of the Unduly Lenient Scheme. One of the reasons behind the unduly lenient sentence scheme when it was introduced over 30 years ago was to make sure someone who had been deeply affected by crime could ask the Attorney General to consider whether the sentence handed down by a trial court was unduly lenient. Although it has been updated a few times, there’s never been a systematic review and there are now some obvious cases which should be included. For example, there has only been a dedicated domestic abuse offence since 2015. This is called coercive and controlling behaviour. Its advent has transformed our understanding of how traumatic and long-term impact of domestic violence can be. Sentencing hasn’t caught up with this greater understanding and frequently victims and children are left feeling that the depth of their suffering and their perpetrators culpability has not been recognised.
Extending the scheme is only part of any reform. Victims must not be kept in the dark about its existence. I called for prosecutors to make victims aware of the existence of the scheme in all cases where it is applicable. They need to know how it operates, particularly the 28 day deadline, so that they can decide for themselves whether to apply to challenge the sentence.
Attached is the Government response. I am delighted additional offences will be included into the Scheme and welcome the Government commitment to consider how to raise public awareness.