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Closed petition Remove the 28-day time limit from the lenient sentence scheme in cases of murder

I would like the Government to remove the 28-day time limit for applying to the lenient sentence scheme to have a sentence reviewed, for convictions of murder.

More details

Currently the families of murder victims have no recourse against an unduly lenient sentence, if they do not apply within 28 days.

I am campaigning for this change because my sister was murdered in 2013. We believe her killer meets the criteria for a whole life order but he was only given a minimum sentence of 35 years. We believe this is too low, and that we should have the right to apply to have this sentence reviewed.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 14 August 2023

The government currently has no plans to remove the ULS scheme’s time limit. Victims and families are informed about the limit by the CPS, and we are working to improve their awareness of the scheme.

Murder is a devastating crime, and the government recognises the need of victims’ families and loved ones to feel that justice has been served.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence. When a life sentence is imposed, the court has to determine the minimum period to be served in custody for the purposes of punishment and deterrence. Only when this period has been served in full may the offender be considered for release by the Parole Board under strict licence conditions, if it is satisfied that the prisoner can be safely managed in the community. Many offenders remain in prison beyond their minimum term, and some may never be released. A life sentence does, therefore, remain in force for the whole of the offender’s life and it is an indeterminate sentence under which the offender could spend their life in prison.

The ULS scheme provides a way to ensure that sentences for serious crimes can be challenged by victims, their families and members of the public if perceived to be unduly lenient. The Attorney General has the power under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal. The Court will then review the sentence and may decide to replace it with a sentence that it considers more appropriate. Referrals must be made by the Attorney General within 28 days of the date of sentence.

Whilst the 28 day time limit will be kept under consideration, the government currently has no plans to remove or amend it. This is because it is important to avoid ongoing uncertainty about the sentence to be served. This limit also reflects similar constraints on defendants appealing against conviction or sentence.

The government recognises that it is important that victims, prosecuting authorities and members of the public are aware of the ULS scheme ahead of sentencing hearings where the time limit ordinarily begins. On 1 April 2021, a new Victims’ Code came into force which includes details of the ULS scheme, making it clear to victims their right to appeal and under what circumstances the AGO may refer cases. Since 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has provided information about the scheme in letters to bereaved families that are sent out after conviction.

Further changes to improve awareness are currently being undertaken. As part of work on the Victims and Prisoners Bill, we will look at the information about the ULS scheme that is provided in the Code to ensure it is as clear as possible. We are also legislating to require key criminal justice agencies, such as the police and CPS, to raise awareness of the Code among victims.

Ministry of Justice