Terrorist and paramilitary-related offences added to the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme

Date published: 01 August 2019

People found guilty of crimes linked to terrorism, paramilitarism and organised crime groups could see their sentences reconsidered under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

From 1 August, almost 100 additional offences linked to terrorism, organised crime and paramilitarism will be included in the scheme. 

The changes follow a review and public consultation on the law on Unduly Lenient Sentences, which was commissioned by former Justice Minister Claire Sugden in response to a recommendation contained in the Fresh Start Panel Report.

Peter May, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Justice said: “The addition of these offences to the Unduly Lenient Scheme contributes to our commitment within the Executive Action Plan to Tackle Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime and seeks to build confidence in the justice system.

“People convicted for these offences could see their sentences reconsidered by the Court of Appeal if the Director of Public Prosecutions thinks they are unduly lenient.”

Under the ULS scheme, the Director of Public Prosecutions can, if they consider that a sentence passed in the Crown Court is unduly lenient, refer the case to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration.  Anyone can ask the DPP to consider a sentence handed down in the Crown Court.

Notes to editors: 

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. 

The provisions cover all offences which can only be tried on indictment, i.e. the most serious offences.  Hybrid offences are added to the scheme by statutory order. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions has 28 days (from date of sentence) to consider and make a decision on whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal to review the sentence.

The court can decide whether the sentence should stay the same or, if it is unreasonably low, whether it should be increased.

The Fresh Start Panel Report recommended that the Department ensure a mechanism for the referral of unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal for offences linked to terrorism and organised crime groups. In response, the Executive Action Plan, which was agreed by the previous Executive, contained a commitment to consider this recommendation within the scope of a Sentencing Policy Review.

Further information on the Action Plan can be found at https://www.northernireland.gov.uk/articles/executive-programme-tackling-paramilitary-activity-and-organised-crime-0#toc-8

A public consultation on the addition of sentences was carried out in 2018. A summary of consultation responses can be found at https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/unduly-lenient-sentences-summary-responses

The addition of further offences was made by way of a Statutory Regulation which was laid in the Assembly on 9 July 2019.  This legislative action was within the framework of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018. The Statutory Regulation can be viewed at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2019/131/made

All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on: 028 9037 8110.

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