Stuart Hall case sees 150 complaints that sentence was too lenient

Attorney general reveals that a large number of people want his office to consider 83-year-old's sentence for referral to Court of Appeal

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The Independent Online

The Attorney General has received 150 requests to increase disgraced former BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall's 15-month sentence for indecent assault, he revealed.

Dominic Grieve QC and his team are currently considering whether the jail term was “unduly lenient” and be referred to the Court of Appeal to decide whether to increase it.

There was an angry reaction from children's charities and politicians when the 83-year-old former BBC sports presenter was jailed in April after admitting a series of indecent assaults on girls as young as nine.

Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow Attorney General, was among those to write to Mr Grieve to complain that the sentence “surely cannot be strong enough for the seriousness and circumstances of the crime”.

Today, the Government's chief legal advisor revealed that a decision was expected within a fortnight on whether to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal: “The office will consider it, I will consider it and I and the Solicitor General will make a final decision as to whether a reference should be made.”

“About 150 people contacted the office in one form or another to ask if we were considering the matter. Even if only one person had contacted us, this case is going to attract the same level of scrutiny and review because that is how we operate,” added Mr Grieve.

Cases can be referred to the Attorney General's office by the Crown Prosecution Service if they consider the sentences in serious criminal matters are unduly lenient. Victims, families and the general public can also put in requests.

Mr Grieve was speaking as he revealed that, of the138,808 crown court cases in 2012, 435 were referred for consideration, a rise of 15 per cent over the previous year.

Of these, 91 were immediately dismissed as ineligible, largely because they were beyond the 28 day limit. Eighty eight were referred to the Court of Appeal with leave to appeal granted in 73 cases. Sixty two offenders had their sentences increased.

“The ULS (unduly lenient sentence) scheme allows anyone to refer a sentence to me for consideration. It is to be noted of course that in the vast majority of cases judges impose sentences which are entirely appropriate, but the ULS scheme does provide an important safeguard in those very few cases in which the sentence falls significantly outside the proper range,” Mr Grieve said.

He attributed the rise in referrals to increased awareness of the scheme rather than a sign of decreasing faith in the judiciary. Contrary to popular perception, Mr Grieve said that sentences were not more lenient than in previous decades.

“For serious offences that is not the case. Actually for that type of crime they are very significantly higher than they were 30 years ago. For really serious offences my impression is the (sentencing) guidelines are introducing a new rigour and consistency,” he added.

Among the 62 cases where sentences were increased upon appeal, just three judges were involved in more than one trial. Judge Martin Joy, sitting at Maidstone Crown Court had three of his sentences increased

Judge Joy saw his 10 year jail sentence for an offender convicted of a string of child sex attacks including rape increased to a stricter penalty known as an IPP (imprisonment for public protection) with a minimum term of seven years.

He also saw a separate 10 year prison term for a child rapist increased to 15 years and a sentence of three years and six months given to a drug dealer raised to six years.

“I would be very wary of extrapolating from that, that this is a lenient sentencing judge. It may not be an accurate reflection at all. It may just be what happened in this year,” added Mr Grieve.

The Office for Judicial Complaints also published its figures today, showing that in the financial year ending in March 2013, complaints had risen a third to 2,154. Of these half related to a judicial decisions or case management, which fell outside its remit.

However, the complaints led to 20 people being removed from office, one judge, 17 magistrates and three tribunal members. Nine were removed from their posts for not fulfilling their judicial duties, seven for inappropriate behaviour or comments, three as a result of civil proceedings or criminal convictions and one because of a misuse of their judicial status.