A wider range of prosecutors will be permitted to conduct the rising number of appeals against unduly lenient sentences (ULS), the Attorney General announced.
Currently, such cases conducted on behalf of the Government have been reserved to Treasury Counsel, but under a six-month pilot scheme grade four prosecution advocates will be able to carry out the work.
Treasury Counsel will continue to play the main role in ULS casework and the Attorney General will retain discretion to request them in appropriate cases.
But the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, said: ‘It’s vital that the public are able to legally challenge custodial sentences and to make sure offences are being properly punished.
‘This trial extension is a great opportunity for experienced lawyers to develop their skills further whilst preserving the continued effective operation of the ULS scheme.’
He added: ‘With the number of referrals increasing, it is right that we look at ways to widen the approach.’
The number of sentences considered by the Attorney General’s Office has increased by 97% since 2010, up from 342 sentences to 674 in 2014. During the same period, referrals by the Attorney General’s Office to the Court of Appeal rose 35%, from 90 to 122.
However, the number of sentences found to be unduly lenient has remained low. In 2013 and 2014 only 166 offenders had their sentence increased.
Commenting on the issue, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Sir Brian Leveson, said: ‘Sentencing is a complex process where the judge must take into account a number of factors in reaching a balanced decision.
‘In order to maintain public confidence in sentencing, it is important that any member of the public may request a review by the Attorney General of a sentence imposed in the Crown Court.’