Where offenders have been sentenced for certain offences in the Crown Court and the Attorney General considers that the sentence imposed was too low, the Attorney General can refer the offender’s case to the Court of Appeal for the sentence to be reviewed. If the Court of Appeal considers that the sentence imposed on the offender was “unduly lenient” they can increase it and replace it with the sentence they think appropriate. These cases are commonly called an Attorney General’s reference. This is because it is primarily the Attorney General who has the power to refer a case to the Court of Appeal to be considered. However, cases can also be referred to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor General. Anyone can ask for a sentence to be reviewed within 28 days of sentencing (so long as it was imposed for an offence within the scheme).

Download the Explainer here:

Beard, J. (2019) Review of Unduly Lenient Sentences. London: House of Commons Library. Available at: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN00512/SN00512.pdf

Harris, L. (2019) Evaluating 30 years of the unduly lenient sentence scheme: Attorney General’s References 1988-2017. Criminal Law Review, 5: 370-393