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Victims of crimes to be given additional powers to challenge sentences

Following expansion to an existing Government scheme, victims of crimes including stalking, harassment and sex crimes will be able to challenge sentences that they believe are too lenient.

The changes to the unduly lenient sentence scheme which examines crown court punishments will see fourteen offences added to the current list which includes Murder, robbery, rape and some child sex cases.

The Ministry of Justice also revealed that offences including abuse by a person in a position of trust, having indecent child images, controlling and coercive behaviour and sexual activity with a person who has a mental disorder will now be covered by the scheme.

The scheme originated in 1989 and allows anyone to ask for a sentence to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office, even if they have no connection to the case.

Only one request for each case is needed for the Government to decide to review a sentence. However, this request must come within 28 days of initial sentencing.

Last year, 99 people saw their sentences increased after a review by the courts in England and Wales. Whilst since 2015 there have been 478 cases result in harsher punishments for offenders.

The Government says it hopes the changes will come into effect in the autumn via secondary legislation, which can be brought in without Parliament having to pass a new act.

Claire Waxman, the Victims Commissioner for London, said she had been campaigning for change to the ‘outdated’ scheme for three years.

“It is wrong that victims of stalking, harassment, coercive control and child sexual abuse have for too long not had the right to challenge sentences if they felt they did not reflect the severity of the crime they had endured.

“For victims of these crimes, this has been a long time coming, but I am pleased that the government has finally delivered on its commitment to ensuring more victims have a right to appeal and a proper voice in the justice system.”

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Gurjit Singh
As a member of the Criminal Litigation Accreditation Scheme (CLAS), holder of the Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) qualification and duty solicitor for the Coventry area, I regularly represent clients in a wide range of criminal cases, including road traffic offences.

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