Sentencing in Criminal Cases: What Happens When There’s a Slip-Up?

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Sentencing in Criminal Cases: What Happens When There’s a Slip-Up?

A man sent to prison for his part in conceiving a terrorist attack has now had his sentence increased after the trial judge reviewed it under what is called the ‘slip rule.’ This mechanism for amending a sentence generally receives less coverage than the Unduly Lenient review scheme, but is still significant. Here, we look at what it is and how it operates on a practical level.

What is the ‘Slip Rule’?

Within 56 days of a sentence being passed, it can be altered by a Crown Court (or Magistrates’ Court, if applicable). This is permissible under s.155 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

When would the Slip Rule be used?

In the case of Munir Mohammed (referred to above) the Judge in question found that he had made an error in deciding the minimum period that Mr Mohammed must serve in prison. This has seen that minimum being increased from 14 to 21 years.

A sentence can also be altered under the slip rule if ‘further relevant information’ becomes available to the court. The BBC report of the Mohammed case also references that of Mustafa Bashir, who found himself recalled to court and resentenced. His suspended term of imprisonment was formally changed to an immediate period of custody after it was discovered that he had misled the court about his employment.

Sentences can also be altered in this way if the court has not taken account of provisions in the law that limit its sentencing powers, or if the ‘sentence is found to take effect in an unexpected manner.’

It doesn’t apply if a Judge simply has a rethink and decides they were wrong on the day- the situations in which the ‘slip rule’ can be invoked are strictly limited in accordance with the rules above.

How does it differ from the Unduly Lenient sentence scheme?

This is entirely separate to the slip rule, and involves the Attorney General referring a sentence to the Court of Appeal because its leniency could damage public confidence. We will cover this in a separate blog post.

A cautionary tale

CPS guidance also states that the slip rule may apply if a defendant is seen to ‘celebrate’ after sentence, be it outside the court or via social media. Exactly how this would translate into an adjustment in sentence remains to be seen- but is still a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to express their jubilation a little too emphatically.

If you need quality representation in a criminal case, please contact our expert Criminal Law team on 0113 284 5000- we specialise in all aspects of Criminal Law and will be happy to help.

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