Members of the public will be able to press for longer sentences in terror-related convictions if they think they are too soft, plans unveiled in Whitehall on Friday revealed.
Ministers are preparing to extend the existing unduly lenient scheme – which allows victims of crime and the public to query the sentences handed out by the courts – to a range of terror-related offences. Currently, the scheme gives anyone the power to ask the attorney-general to review a sentence for the most serious crimes and, where appropriate, the government’s chief lawyer can refer it to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration.
The most serious terror offences, and crimes such as murder and rape, are already covered. But the latest move from the government will mean that the sentences for 19 additional offences, including supporting extremist organisations, encouraging acts of terror or failing to disclose information about a terrorist attack, will be eligible for review.
Dominic Raab, the justice minister, said that the government aimed to have “the most robust sentences” imposed for terror crimes, and for “for victims to have every opportunity to see justice delivered”. “Our action will reinforce our focus on deterring people who help radicalise terrorists, and punishing those who wilfully turn a blind eye to terrorist activity,” he said.
The attorney-general, Jeremy Wright, QC, maintained that “widening the scheme to include terrorism offences will allow us to challenge more sentences and is a welcome first step to extending it even further”.
In 2015, the most recent year for which the Ministry of Justice has figures, the attorney-general referred 136 cases to the Court of Appeal, and judges then increased the sentences of 102 offenders. However, the ministry pointed out that sentence reviews occurred in only a small minority of cases. The Crown Court hears about 80,000 cases annually, which demonstrated that “the judiciary get the vast majority of decisions right”, the ministry said.