HC Deb 06 July 1992 vol 211 cc13-4
32. Mr. Dickens

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on his practice in referring cases to the Court of Appeal for possible increase of sentences.

The Attorney-General

Since 1 February 1989, when this power came into effect, my predecessor and I have applied for leave to refer 86 sentences to the Court of Appeal, including five to the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland. Ten were later withdrawn in the light of futher information, but of the 61 so far reviewed, 48 have resulted in substantially increased sentences.

Mr. Dickens

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that to retain public confidence the sentence must fit the crime and should provide the victim with some comfort? Does he further agree that the sentence should contain an element of retribution, punishment and deterrence? If all those are seen to be in place, the public are satisfied—but in so many instances they feel that judges pass sentences that do not fit the crime.

The Attorney-General

I entirely agree that in sentencing, not only must there be an opportunity for over-severe sentences to be reduced by the Court of Appeal but that public confidence requires that where a sentence is unduly lenient, the court should have an oppportunity to fix a more appropriate and, where necessary, more severe sentence.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Attorney-General accept that in a case that I referred to him in which the relatives of a man prosecuted for serious sexual abuse over many years made the dramatic and courageous decision to appear in court, they were deeply disappointed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not choose to appeal against the sentence of probation? As the Attorney-General knows, that sentence allowed the convicted man to be seen by his last victim—a 12-year-old—wandering around a local town. The relatives felt deeply betrayed because the Government did not ensure that a sentence was imposed that would ensure that that man was kept well away from the area where he committed his vicious crimes.

The Attorney-General

I am aware of the details of the case that the hon. Gentleman referred to me. Such cases are not easy. It is essential that the considerable power to refer a sentence as unduly lenient should be exercised by the Law Officers after careful examination of the facts and in the light of the principles of sentencing, which are carefully laid down by the Court of Appeal.

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