Howard set to curb 'leniency'

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The Independent Online
SERIOUS violent and sexual offenders could face tougher sentences under proposals disclosed yesterday by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, writes Heather Mills.

From March, the Attorney General is to be given extra powers to challenge in the appeal courts what he considers unduly lenient sentences for offences of indecent assault, threatening to kill, and cruelty to or neglect of children.

Currently the Attorney General's powers to refer cases to appeal judges are restricted to those which have to be dealt with in the Crown Court. Although the new category of offences can also be heard by magistrates, referral to the Court of Appeal is limited to the more serious examples handled by judges.

Detailing the plans, first outlined as part of his tough new law-and-order package, Mr Howard said: 'The public rightly expects that the punishment should fit the crime. This measure will send a clear message that serious offences should attract an appropriate sentence from the courts.'