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Unfairly low sentences

Unfairly low sentences: how to complain

When somebody is found guilty of a crime, a judge gives them a sentence. If you feel a sentence is not strict enough, in some cases you can ask the Attorney General to see if it can be changed. We will assist child abuse survivors and their families, by gaining the support from others to help inundate the Attorney General’s office asking for ‘unduly lenient’ sentences to be reviewed !

Find out which cases can be reviewed and how you can ask for a review.

When is a sentence too lenient?

To be looked at again, a sentence must be ‘unduly lenient’. This legal term means more than just a low sentence; it means a sentence is far too low. You can ask for these sentences to be reviewed.

Those sentences can be changed by the Court of Appeal. For that to happen, the Attorney General’s Office first has to ask the court to check the sentences given.

Which cases can be reviewed?

Parliament has set strict limits on the kinds of cases that can be looked at again. Only those involving the most serious crimes can be reviewed and the sentence must have been given in the crown court.

Cases that could be reviewed include:

  • serious violent crimes, such as murder, rape and robbery

  • some sex crimes, particularly involving children, but also sexual assault

  • child cruelty

  • threats to kill

  • serious fraud

  • serious drug crimes

  • racially or religiously aggravated crimes

  • attempting any of these crimes or encouraging someone else to commit them

If you think a sentence is unduly lenient

If you believe a sentence is so low that it must be unduly lenient, contact the Attorney General’s Office. You can ask the Attorney General’s Office to look at the sentence again. You must do that within 28 days of the judge giving the sentence.

No cases will be considered after that time.

You can find out more information about the Attorney General’s Office and how to get in touch with them using the link below.

Who can ask for a sentence to be reviewed?

Anyone can ask for a sentence to be reviewed. Victims, their families, and members of the public all have a right to ask for a review.

You do not need to hire a lawyer to ask for a sentence to be looked at. You can contact the Attorney General’s Office yourself if you want.

You might find it helpful to talk to your local Crown Prosecution Service office about the sentence first. You can also ask your Member of Parliament to help you.

Information you’ll need to know to ask for a review

If you’re asking for a sentence to be looked at, you’ll need to give the Attorney General’s Office some basic information. This includes:

  • the name of the person who was sentenced (if you know this)

  • the name of the court where the sentence was passed

  • the crimes committed

  • the date of the sentence (it must be within the last 28 days to be reviewed)

If you heard about the case through a newspaper or television report, you need to know:

  • the date of the report

  • the name of the newspaper or the television station

Who to contact to ask for a sentence to be changed

To ask for a sentence to be looked at, you should contact the Attorney General’s Office.

What the Attorney General’s Office will do

The Attorney General or Solicitor General will decide whether to send the case to the Court of Appeal.

To do that, they will look at the law and the legal guidelines in the case. They will also consider the views of the victims and their families. 

They may get advice from:

  • lawyers for the prosecution

  • a lawyer who wasn’t involved with the case

  • lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office

If the case is sent to the Court of Appeal

Even if a case is passed on to it, the Court of Appeal might not change the sentence. If the Court of Appeal decides a sentence is not ‘unduly lenient’, the original sentence will stay in place.

If the Court of Appeal decides a sentence was too low, it can give advice to judges and the sentence may be increased.

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