Communications Committee work

Sheriff Norman McFadyen

In this blog, the Chair of the Council’s Communications Committee, Sheriff Norman McFadyen, talks about some of the committee’s recent work.

As well as promoting consistency in sentencing, one of the Council’s statutory objectives is to seek to ‘promote greater awareness and understanding of sentencing policy and practice’.

This is an important part of our work. Sentencing is often seen as a complex and confusing subject and we have a duty to help make it better understood and more accessible. 

Since our launch in late 2015, we have been aiming to inform the public about sentencing, with a focus on those areas which can be difficult to understand. In particular, we have developed a range of well used website resources. These include a series of introductory videos, interactive case studies, and comprehensive information pages covering subjects such as the factors which judges might consider when making a sentencing decision, or what a Community Payback Order might involve. The Council also recently published a mythbuster to help address some common sentencing misconceptions.

We are continuing to develop and expand our website as a sentencing resource and to look for other opportunities to both promote public awareness of sentencing and find out more about what people would find useful. For example, Council staff recently attended a national modern studies conference where they spoke to teachers from across Scotland about what resources might be useful in the classroom. They also contributed to an extension of the Mini Trials schools programme to include a sentencing option and took part in the Parliament House doors open day at the Supreme Courts in Edinburgh, giving us an opportunity to speak directly to members of the public and explain our work.     

Engaging with the public is vital to the success of our wider work in developing sentencing guidelines. We are committed to consulting publicly on all our draft guidelines and we held our first consultation in 2017 in relation to the principles and purposes of sentencing for all offences. We view public consultations not only as an opportunity to seek views on our work, but also to offer information about how sentencing operates. 

Looking to the future, both the Council and the Communications Committee are keen to hear from interested individuals and organisations on suggestions of how else we might raise awareness and understanding of sentencing. If you wish to get in touch, see our contact page.