Sentencing Council to be established after five-year wait

Written by Alan Robertson on 18 February 2015 in News

Group will be launched this October, Scottish Government announce

A new body intended to provide sentencing guidelines for Scotland will be launched later this year, ministers have confirmed, five years on from the relevant legislation passing through parliament.

The Scottish Sentencing Council’s aim is to promote consistency in sentencing, assist the development of policy in sentencing, as well as promote awareness of sentencing policy and practice.

Sentencing guidelines – to be approved by the 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.

The Scottish Government today announced the Council will be established by October of this year with a view to holding its first meeting in November.

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, Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway – who will chair the group – told a Sacro lecture in November 2013, though he claimed introduction of guidelines on sentencing would move the country into a “more civilized era”.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said: “Sentencing can be an extremely complicated and emotive issue and the creation of the new Scottish Sentencing Council will offer greater clarity and openness around why and how sentences are decided while giving the public a better understanding of the process.”

The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway, said the Council would be in “good stead” given the legislation which heralded its introduction provides for a “broad and inclusive range of experience” in membership. 

Besides the Lord Justice Clerk, ive other judicial office holders, three legal members, a police officer, a victims’ representative and another non-judicial member are to sit on the group.

He said: “The creation of the Council, with its responsibility to prepare guidelines to assist the courts in sentencing and to describe the potential effects of those guidelines, will help to ensure a consistent and coherent approach to sentencing practice and policy in Scotland.

“It will also assist the public, by providing information on sentencing matters and by improving understanding and awareness of the sentencing process.” 

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