Judges face more complaints over 'lenient' sentencing

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The Independent Online

The number of judges who have been challenged for imposing unduly lenient sentences has increased by one third in the past four years, according to figures released by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith.

Many of the sentences have been referred to the Court of Appeal by Lord Goldsmith who believed there were grounds for increasing or imposing a jail term.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that last year 389 sentences thought to be too lenient were sent in to Lord Goldsmith by prosecutors and the public compared with 277 in 2001.

Fewer than one in three is then sent to the Court of Appeal. Of the 106 reviewed by the court, sentences were found to be "unduly lenient" in 75 per cent of cases.

Jail terms were increased, however, in only 61 per cent of cases, often because of the double-jeopardy principle where a defendant cannot be tried twice for the same offence.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General denied yesterday that the compilation and publication of the list was a political exercise. "We are not naming and shaming judges. We put the statistics together because we were requested to do it under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act."

Last week a babysitter who raped a 12-week-old girl had his "unduly lenient" jail sentence increased by the Court of Appeal. Alan Webster's six-year minimum term was lengthened by only two years. His accomplice, Tanya French, 20, escaped any increase in her five-year sentence.

Webster, described as "evil and depraved", was jailed for life in January after admitting raping and indecently assaulting the baby and taking photographs of the abuse.