Proposals to add terrorist and paramilitary-related offences to the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme

Date published: 07 August 2018

People found guilty of crimes like money laundering, possession of firearms or encouragement of terrorism could soon see their sentences reconsidered, under proposals to extend the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, published today by the Department of Justice.

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Under the ULS scheme, the Director of Public Prosecutions can, if he considers that a sentence passed in the Crown Court is unduly lenient, refer the case to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration. 

The proposals have identified over 80 offences, linked to terrorism, organised crime and paramilitarism, to be added to the scheme.  Anyone found guilty of these types of crime in the Crown Court could then see their sentence increased if it is found to be unduly lenient.

The proposals were developed in response to a recommendation in the Fresh Start Panel Report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups, and a commitment to consult was included in the Action Plan agreed by the Executive to implement the recommendations.

The Department is seeking views on the proposals, in particular whether the offences listed in the paper properly reflect the type of criminality inflicted on communities by organised crime and paramilitary linked groups.

The consultation is open until 5pm on 2nd October 2018.

Printed copies can be obtained by phone on 02890169584 or by email to

Or by writing to Criminal Policy Branch, Criminal Policy and Legislation Division, Massey House, Stormont Estate, Belfast BT4 3SX

Notes to editors: 

  1. The ULS provisions, (sections 35 and 36 Criminal Justice Act 1988) allow for the reconsideration of sentences, awarded in the Crown Court, on the grounds of undue leniency. 
  2. The provisions cover all indictable-only offences, i.e. only the most serious offences.  A limited number of hybrid offences have also been added by statutory order.  Most of these are sexual offences.
  3. The Director of Public Prosecutions has 28 days (from date of sentence) to consider and make a decision whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal to review the sentence.
  4. The court can decide whether the sentence should stay the same or, if it is unreasonably low, whether it should be increased.
  5. The Department is consulting on proposals to bring within scope of the ULS provisions over 80 additional offences (see Annex E of the consultation paper).
  6. The proposals are in response to recommendation A15 of the Fresh Start Panel Report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups published in May 2016 Fresh Start Panel Report :
  7.  ‘the Department of Justice should ensure that an appropriate mechanism is in place to enable the Director of Public Prosecutions to refer sentences he believes to be unduly lenient, particularly to include offences linked to terrorism and organised crime groups.’
  8. The Department is seeking views on whether the proposed offences reflect the type of offending behaviour envisaged by the Fresh Start Panel and on whether offences which have a maximum penalty of two years and under should be excluded.
  9. To find out more about the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme, please click on the link
  10. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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