New guidance on sentencing of offenders comes into force in Scotland
New guidelines surrounding the sentencing of all offenders are coming into force in Scotland’s courts.
For the first time in Scotland, the guidelines set down the fundamental principles and purposes of sentencing in a document.
The guidelines, developed by the Scottish Sentencing Council, were approved by three senior judges at the end of last month and they come into force on Monday.
Council chair and Scotland’s second most senior judge, Lady Dorrian, has described the move as “historic”, saying it marks the start of a new approach which will help to support consistency in sentencing and decision making.
The guideline states the core principle of sentencing is “fairness and proportionality”.
It requires judges to consider all relevant factors in a case, including the seriousness of the offence, the impact on the victim and others and the offender’s circumstances.
Sentences should be “no more severe than is necessary to achieve the appropriate purposes of sentencing” and the reasons for sentencing decisions must be stated “as clearly and openly as circumstances permit”, according to the document.
It also sets out some of the purposes which sentencing may seek to achieve, such as protection of the public, punishment and rehabilitation.
If judges decide not to follow the guidelines, they must state the reasons behind the decision.
Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, said: “We believe that this guideline, which sets out the fundamental principles and purposes of sentencing in Scotland for the first time, will have significant benefits to both the courts and the public.
“In particular, we expect that transparency in sentencing will increase, with more clarity around how particular decisions are reached and the various factors which are taken into account.
“This guideline will also form a strong foundation for our future work in developing further sentencing guidelines, including those which will apply to particular offences.”
The Scottish Sentencing Council is also working on guidelines covering topics such as the sentencing of young people, causing death by dangerous driving and environmental offences.
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