HC Deb 31 October 1994 vol 248 cc1208-9
35. Mr. Hawkins

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement about the recent extension of his powers to refer cases to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient sentences.

The Attorney-General

My power to apply for leave to refer a sentence which I consider to be unduly lenient was extended in March 1994 to cover offences of indecent assault, making threats to kill, and cruelty or neglect of a child. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has now announced the Government's intention further to extend my power to include sentences imposed in cases of serious or complex fraud.

Mr. Hawkins

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's answer. Can he confirm that, so far, sentences have been increased in 83 per cent. of cases referred to the Court of Appeal under the measure? The Labour party voted against that measure in 1991. So much far being "tough on crime". Will my right hon. and learned Friend further confirm that one of the sentences that it may be possible to refer is that for the crime of forgery? Will he look carefully at forgery offences, even those that are committed by editors of national newspapers?

The Attorney-General

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Court of Appeal has increased sentences in about 83 per cent. of those cases for which it has given me leave to refer to it. It is also worth pointing out that the legislation has produced a significant increase in sentences in areas where it bites. That is valuable, and should be recognised by all hon. Members irrespective of whether they voted for the legislation.