New sentence review powers in pipeline

David Ford has launched a public consultation
David Ford has launched a public consultation

Prosecutors in Northern Ireland could be handed greater powers to request reviews of sentences they believe are unduly lenient.

Justice Minister David Ford has launched a public consultation on the potential of widening the range of offences that can be referred to the Court of Appeal.

While director of public prosecutions (DPP) Barra McGrory currently has the power to ask for certain sentences to be reviewed, many offences are not eligible for referral.

Sentences handed down for crimes against animals, environmental crimes, and certain offences targeting elderly or vulnerable people cannot be reviewed under the law as it stands.

Mr Ford acknowledged there had been public controversy over a number of recent sentences where the DPP had no power to ask for reviews.

“I am keen to ensure that we have the correct legislative framework for review of unduly lenient sentences,” he said.

“The consultation, whilst fully recognising the independence of both the prosecution and sentencing processes, will ensure powers and mechanisms are focused on the most appropriate cases.

“I want to provide a system that is deliverable and manageable, and improves confidence in the justice system.

“I am aware of concerns in respect of a number of recent cases. I would welcome views on appropriate changes to the law.”

The public consultation will run until May 8.