“What justice? – asks the Daily Mail (30th October) in response to the sentence imposed on Reece Kent (aged 19) who, it is said, repeatedly punched a terminally ill man (Mr Oliver). The Independent (30th October) also reports this case.
It is reported that Kent had pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm and received a 6 month suspended sentence order of imprisonment (suspended for 12 months) combined with a requirement to complete 150 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay compensation of £1000. The judge is reported to have said that he decided by the “slightest margin” not to jail him.
Even allowing for the fact that Kent had pleaded guilty and was therefore entitled to a discount on his sentence, this appears to be another very lenient outcome which only serves to make people think that the law does not and will not protect them.
In certain cases it is possible for the Attorney-General to refer a case to the Court of Appeal as “unduly lenient” – Criminal Justice Act 1988 Part IV. This applies to a rather limited range of cases. It includes any offence triable only on indictment (i.e. triable only by the Crown Court). If the offence is “either-way” (and many are) then a referral can only be made in a limited range of cases set out in an Order .
The newspaper reports do not inform us of the precise grievous bodily harm offence with which Kent was charged. There is “infliction of grievous bodily harm” under s.20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. There is also “wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent” under s.18 of the 1861 Act. The latter is triable only upon indictment. The former is an “either way” offence. It appears that the s.20 offence is not in the list of those which can be referred. There seems to be a good case for an urgent review of the list relating to either-way offences.
The Attorney-General requires leave from the Court of Appeal to refer a case - (Criminal Justice Act 1988 s36). A further point to note is that a sentence must not be merely lenient - it must be "unduly lenient." There are many decided cases on this though each case depends very much on its own facts. As an example see Attorney-General's Reference 50/2009 -  EWCA Crim 1729.
Also, yet again, we see a case which seems to bear out the need for the publication of sentencing reasons so that the public might have an opportunity to understand what lies behind such a sentence. As things stand, it is becoming difficult for people to see just what is necessary before violent criminals see the inside of a prison cell.
See CPS – Unduly lenient sentences