UK Attorney General, Home Secretary to meet on sentencing differences

[JURIST] UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith [official profile] and Home Secretary John Reid [official profile] have agreed to meet to consult on procedures to govern the appeal of sentences for sex offenses after Reid objected to a judge's sentence as "too lenient" and demanded that Goldsmith's office take it to the Court of Appeal. Craig Sweeney was sentenced to life [UK Limited report] on Monday for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a three-year-old-girl, but a judge said afterwards that though he received a life sentence, because he plead guilty, he could be eligible for parole within five years. Goldsmith had indicated earlier that Reid's comments were "not helpful" and that he would not allow political interference with the judicial process. A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said "When there appears to be a disconnect between the public’s commonsense view of right and wrong and how it sees that reflected in judicial decisions, then it is right and proper for the Home Secretary to articulate that concern." Goldsmith will decide on an appeal within 28 days; his office has referred some 698 cases to the appeals court [Guardian report] since 2001, but has traditionally resisted outside pressure to do so.

On Tuesday, the government confirmed reports that 53 convicts sentenced to life in the past six years have already been released on parole under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 [text], which established the Sentencing Guidelines Council [materials] to ensure uniform sentences for those prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 [text]. The parole option [BBC backgrounder; BBC video] was included to encourage accused perpetrators to confess, thus saving the financial and emotional cost of a trial, but public outrage over the "soft" sentencing results spurred Reid to publicly demand that Goldsmith appeal the Sweeney sentence. The London Times has more.

 

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