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Consultation over Development of Sentencing Guidelines

The Scottish Sentencing Council has launched a consultation exercise to seek the views of the public over the development of Scotland’s first sentencing guideline.

The guideline sets out the principles and purposes of sentencing for all offences and will influence how offenders are sentenced in Scotland’s courts.

Although some relevant guidance already exists in the form of court decisions in particular cases, this will be the first time that a comprehensive definition is provided for the principles underlying sentencing decisions and the purposes they seek to achieve.

Principles of Sentencing

The draft guideline sets out an overarching principle of ‘fairness and proportionality’ and a series of supporting principles which contribute to this, including.

  • similar offences should be treated in a similar manner,
  • sentences should be no more severe than necessary,
  • reasons for sentencing decisions should be stated clearly and openly, and
  • people should be treated equally, without discrimination.

Purposes of Sentencing

The draft guideline also outlines the purposes sentencing may seek to achieve, for example:

  • punishment
  • reduction of crime (including through rehabilitation)
  • reflecting society’s disapproval
  • giving offenders an opportunity to make amends.

The draft guideline was designed to assist judges in court and to help the public better understand how sentences are decided. The consultation asks people to comment both on the principles and purposes identified, and on how easy the guideline is to understand.

“The fundamental principles and purposes of sentencing have never before been expressly defined in Scotland,” explained Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk and Chair of the Council. “We believe that creating this guideline will have significant benefits both to the public and the courts, increasing consistency and transparency in sentencing.”

The Council is also currently developing general guidelines relating to the sentencing process - including the steps taken by judges when deciding sentences and the different factors they take into account – and on the sentencing of young people. In addition, it is undertaking preparatory work in relation to offence specific guidelines relating to causing death by driving and wildlife & environmental crime.

Consultation on Manslaughter Sentencing Guidelines

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales is also currently going through a consultation exercise, this time over guidelines relating to the sentencing of offenders convicted of manslaughter.

The Council highlights that there are currently no comprehensive guidelines on sentencing for these “very serious and difficult” types of cases, and that the introduction of guidelines will help to promote consistency in offending and also improve transparency.

The proposed guideline will cover four types of manslaughter:

  • Unlawful Act manslaughter
  • Gross negligence manslaughter
  • Manslaughter by reason of loss of control
  • Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility

“Manslaughter always involves the loss of a human life and no sentence can make up for that loss,” commented Sentencing Council member Mr Justice Holroyde. “In developing these guidelines, we have been keenly aware of the impact caused by these offences and so the guidelines aim to ensure sentencing that properly reflects both the culpability of the offender and the seriousness of the harm which has been caused.”

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