Over recent weeks, I am pleased to report that I have had a number of successful results in the Court of Appeal following my referral of cases under the Unduly Lenient Scheme.
Under the ULS scheme, victims of crime, members of the public, and prosecutors can ask for certain Crown Court sentences to be reviewed if they believe they are too low. Only one referral by anyone is required in order for it to be considered. If I consider the sentence is so low that it amounts to a gross error, I will ask the Court of Appeal to review the sentence. I can only ask the Court of Appeal to review a sentence with a view to increasing it if that sentence is not just lenient but unduly so, such that the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range of sentences available.
One of these such cases involved a serial sex offender who had his sentence increased following my intervention. The individual, 35, pleaded guilty to 34 child sexual offences as well as to possessing hundreds of thousands of indecent images of children and a ‘paedophile manual’. Over the course of nearly a decade of offending, the individual filmed himself drugging and abusing his victims.
On 23rd November 2020, the individual was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 16 years’ imprisonment at Newport Crown Court. I considered the sentence to be too low. Following my referral of the case to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence, on 19th March 2021 the Court found the sentence to be unduly lenient and increased the minimum term of imprisonment to 25 years.
Another of these such cases saw my intervention lead to an increase in sentences for four individuals who were all involved in Child Sex Offences. The four cases were unrelated but they each concerned a defendant who had attempted to commit sexual activity with a child online. Due to the specific nature of their offences, each case was heard in a joint hearing on 4th March 2021 and the Court of Appeal handed down their judgement for the cases on 21st April 2021. The full breakdown of the sentence increases for each individual can be found here: Sentences increased for men involved in attempted child sex offences - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). I very much welcome the decision of the court in all four of these cases in what I described at the time as a ‘landmark case for the court’.
Another success at the Court of Appeal will see a teenager, who carried out a series of sexual assaults on two young children, spend more time behind bars after I referred his sentence to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient. After being convicted of seventeen sexual offences against a child under 13, the defendant Ronnie Ferguson, was originally sentenced to 2 years and 4 months’ detention in a young offender’s institution on 27th January at Newcastle Crown Court. He was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for a period of 10 years. The case was referred by me and then heard at the Court of Appeal on 26th March. On 23rd April, the Court found his original sentence to be unduly lenient and increased his sentence to 4 years and 4 months’ detention in a young offender’s institution.
Another increase was for the sentence of a Somerset drink-driver, Matthew Shaw, who drove through a red light at an excess speed of 60mph and crashed into another vehicle being driven by Jennifer Sell, 20, who died at the scene. Shaw subsequently failed a roadside breath test and later refused a preliminary drugs test at the police station.
Prior to these offences, Shaw had 8 convictions for multiple driving offences, including for driving a vehicle with excess alcohol, dangerous driving, driving whilst uninsured, failure to cooperate with a preliminary breath test and failure to provide a fluid specimen.
Shaw pleaded guilty to the above offences and was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, failure to cooperate with a preliminary drugs test, aggravated vehicle taking and of driving a vehicle without insurance.
On 20th January 2021, Shaw was sentenced to 7 years and 5 months’ imprisonment at Bristol Crown Court. Following the Court’s decision, I personally referred Shaw’s sentence to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme. On 20th April 2021, the Court ruled that the sentence was unduly lenient and increased it to 8 years and 9 months’ imprisonment.
I am proud of my involvement with the Unduly Lenient Sentencing scheme and the justice that it hopefully brings for victims of some of the most horrific crimes.
Just in 2021 (so far) alone, I have been successful in seeing at least 19 cases which I referred to the Court of Appeal receive an increased sentence, after the Court agreed with me that their original sentences were unduly lenient.
More information about the ULS scheme, including information on how you can refer a case, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/ask-crown-court-sentence-review.
More information about these cases can be found here:
Multiple child rapist jailed for longer - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
You can keep informed about my work as Attorney General - including announcements of sentence increases via the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme and details of previous successful results - on the Attorney General official twitter feed, which can be found here: https://twitter.com/attorneygeneral