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Scottish Sentencing Council consults on new public guideline

12 June 2019

The Scottish Sentencing Council has today launched a consultation on a draft guideline on the sentencing process.

The guideline is aimed at increasing public knowledge of how judges make sentencing decisions, and factors which may be taken into account, as well as being useful to judges and practitioners.

It introduces an eight-step process for the sentencing of an offender. These include four steps common to all cases: assessing the seriousness of the offence, taking into account factors such as the harm, or risk of harm, to a victim; selecting the sentencing range; considering any aggravating and mitigating factors; and determining the headline sentence. Further steps may then apply, including selecting a discount for a guilty plea, having regard to time spent in custody, and making any ancillary orders, before the final step – selecting the sentence and stating reasons for it.

It takes account of the summary nature of many sentencing decisions by explaining that “where a court does not expressly take any step or steps, that does not in itself amount to a decision not to follow the guideline”.

This is the second in a number of guidelines which the independent advisory body has committed to produce. The first, “Principles and purposes of sentencing”, came into force in November 2018 following approval by the High Court. The Sentencing Council intends that that these two guidelines create a framework for every sentencing decision in Scotland, as well as providing the basis for a guide focusing on the sentencing of young people, and future offence-specific guidelines.

The draft guideline has been developed with the judiciary, and the Scottish Sentencing Council would like to engage with as wide and diverse an audience as possible to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and chair of the Council said: “We believe that a guideline on the sentencing process will help to increase public knowledge and understanding of how courts make sentencing decisions. We further believe that it will help to promote greater consistency in sentencing, by providing a useful framework which applies to the sentencing of all offenders.

“The Council remains committed to taking an open and transparent approach to developing sentencing guidelines and the public consultation process is a vital part of that.

“We cannot complete our work in isolation, and I would urge anyone with an interest in how sentences are decided in Scotland to take this opportunity to help shape the development of this guideline.”

Click here to access the consultation. Responses are welcomed by 6 September 2019.


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