The Attorney General has the power to refer sentences for certain offences which he or she believes to be unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal. The Attorney General’s power to refer only applies to serious offences.

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The Attorney General has the power to refer sentences for certain offences which he or she believes to be unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal. This is sometimes called the unduly lenient sentence scheme. The Attorney General’s power to refer only applies to serious offences, being those that can only be dealt with by the Crown Court and some other offences specified in an order. In recent years the scheme has been extended to more offences.

Anyone can ask the Attorney General to consider whether a sentence should be referred to the Court of Appeal as being unduly lenient, including a victim, a relative of a victim or a member of the public.

The Attorney General will consider whether the sentence is “unduly lenient”.  If the Attorney General considers that it might be, then he refers the sentence to the Court of Appeal for review.  If the Court agrees that the sentence is unduly lenient then it may increase it.

There is a strict 28 day time limit within which the Attorney General is able to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal. 

This briefing applies to England and Wales.

  • Commons Research Briefing SN00512
  • Author: Jacqueline Beard
  • Topics: Criminal law

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