Scottish Sentencing Council launched
A new body intended to provide sentencing guidelines for Scotland has been launched, paving the way for a "new era" in sentencing according to one of the country's most senior judges.
The Scottish Sentencing Council’s aim is to promote consistency in sentencing and assist the development of policy in sentencing, as well as promoting awareness of sentencing policy and practice.
Sentencing guidelines – to be approved by the High Court – will be prepared, taking into account sentencing levels, types of sentence suitable for types of offence or offender, and the circumstances in which guidelines may be departed from.
Scotland set for ‘new era of sentencing’, says Lord Carloway
Sentencing Council to be established after five-year wait
Twelve members from across the criminal justice system, including the Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway who will chair the group, will sit on the council.
Lord Carloway said: “Sentencing is much more complex than it sometimes appears - there can be many different factors involved.
“The Council will work to raise awareness and understanding of sentencing practice - not only for our justice partners but for the wider public - helping to build confidence in our justice system.
“I expect the Council to take Scotland into a new era, in which we pursue a more principled approach to sentencing with improved consistency. This will be at the heart of our programme.”
The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, which received Royal Assent in August 2010, paved the way for a system of sentencing designed to be more consistent and transparent.
The move stemmed from a recommendation by the Sentencing Commission for Scotland seven years ago, though came up against opposition from Scotland’s most senior judges in 2009 who warned the planned Council would undermine judicial independence.
Constraints on government spending had delayed its formation, the Lord Justice Clerk told a Sacro lecture in November 2013.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “We know that sentencing can be an extremely complicated and emotive issue which is why we want to provide greater clarity and openness around why and how sentences are decided.
“While the independence of Scotland’s judiciary of course remains a fundamental part of the Scottish legal system, as does judicial discretion in individual sentencing decisions, the Council will help to ensure transparency and consistency in all sentencing decisions made in Scotland, as well as helping the public better understand the sentencing process.”
Council members: Lord Carloway (Lord Justice Clerk, council chair); Lord Turnbull (senator member); Sheriff Principal Ian R. Abercrombie QC (sheriff principal member); Sheriff Norman McFadyen (sheriff member); Allan Findlay (stipendiary magistrate member); Gillian Thomson (justice of the peace member); Catherine Dyer (crown agent, prosecutor member); Stephen O’Rourke (advocate member); John Scott QC (solicitor member); Val Thomson (Assistant Chief Constable, constable member); Sue Moody (lay member with knowledge of victims’ issues); Professor Neil Hutton (lay member).