When can your sentence be changed?
This week, Stuart Hall’s sentence was increased from 15 months to 30 months, after an appeal. It is possible for sentences to be both increased, when they are ‘unduly lenient,’ and decreased on appeal.
Unduly Lenient Sentences
Only sentences passed in the Crown Court can be reviewed due to leniency. Cases are considered to be unduly lenient when they fall outside the range which is considered appropriate when considering all the relevant factors in the case. When sentencing, Judges will consider the Sentencing Guidelines (if there are any for the offence) and any relevant case law.
The Attorney General has responsibility for considering whether a sentence is unduly lenient, and whether it should be appealed. Cases can be referred to the Attorney General by prosecutors, interested parties (such as complainants), or following pressure from the media and MPs, as in Stuart Hall’s case.
The case must be referred to and considered by the Attorney General within 28 days of the sentence for it to be heard by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal will then list the case to hear argument from both the prosecution and defence, and if it thinks appropriate will allow the appeal and re-sentence the defendant.
Appealing your sentence
If you have been sentenced in either the Magistrates Court or Crown Court, your solicitor will generally advise you if you have grounds to appeal the sentence. Common grounds for appeal include; where the sentence is wrong in law, where the sentence is manifestly excessive (e.g. too long), where there have been procedural errors and where there is an unjustified disparity between co-defendants. As with unduly lenient sentences, appeals should be lodged within 28 days of sentence. However, unlike unduly lenient sentences, this is not a hard and fast rule and appeals outside this time limit may be considered where there is a good reason to do so.
Appeals from the Magistrates Court will be heard in the Crown Court.
Appeals from the Crown Court require ‘leave to appeal’ meaning they will be considered by a ‘single judge’ who will decide whether the appeal should be heard by the Court of Appeal. As with unduly lenient sentences, the Court of Appeal will hear from both the prosecution and defence before deciding whether to allow the appeal and re-sentence the appellant.
If your appeal is unsuccessful, and the court considers the appeal is ‘without merit’ it can order that any time spent in custody leading up to appeal will not count towards your sentence. The court can also order that you make a contribution towards costs.
If you are concerned that the prosecution may appeal your sentence for being unduly lenient, or wish to appeal your sentence, contact EmeryJohnson on 0116 255 4855.