'Soft' prison sentences extended after complaints

A prisoner in a cell

The prison sentences of 102 offenders in England and Wales were extended last year, following complaints the original terms were too soft.

More than half the cases involved sexual offences or robbery. The complaints were made under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme.

There were 713 such requests last year, more than double the number for 2010.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said judges get sentencing right "in the vast majority of cases".

The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme allows those unhappy about the sentence passed for some serious crimes - such as murder or rape - to ask officials to review it.

Only one person has to ask for a sentence to be reviewed, and anyone can make a request.

'Lenient' sentencing

Of the complaints made last year, 136 were referred to the Court of Appeal.

And of the 102 sentences judges agreed should be increased, 38 were for sexual offences, 18 were for robbery, and 14 for offences involving guns.

More than 80,000 cases are heard in Crown Courts in England and Wales each year, and the government argues the small number of sentence increases show judges get it right the vast majority of the time.

Mr Wright said: "While in the vast majority of cases, sentencing judges get it right, the ULS scheme is essential in ensuring victims, family members of victims and the general public are able to request that sentences they think are unduly lenient can be reviewed and, where necessary, increased."

The NSPCC said it was "worrying" that some sentences for child abuse "appear to be too lenient".

But a spokeswoman added: "However, it is heartening to learn that the reviews picked up on these oversights and justice was eventually administered."

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