High Court approves new guideline on the sentencing of young people which encourages rehabilitation to cut reoffending

The High Court of Justiciary has today approved a new sentencing guideline developed by the Scottish Sentencing Council, which seeks to reduce reoffending among young people.

The ‘Sentencing young people’ guideline requires courts to have regard to rehabilitation as a primary consideration in sentencing young people, in recognition of their greater capacity for change.

Following extensive research and consultation, the Council submitted the guideline to the High Court for approval in September 2021.

At a hearing held this morning, three judges of the High Court – the Lord Justice General Lord Carloway, Lord Woolman and Lord Pentland – approved the guideline which will come in to effect for all courts in Scotland from Wednesday 26th January 2022. It will apply to the sentencing of those who are under the age of 25 at the date of their plea of guilty or when a finding of guilt is made against them.

Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and Chair of the Council, said: “The guideline explains in a clear and accessible way why a young person should be sentenced differently from a fully mature adult, with rehabilitation as a primary consideration. Its approval by the High Court today is a significant milestone which will help to increase understanding and awareness of this complex and challenging area and, by setting out the various matters which should be taken into account when sentencing a young person, will be of assistance to sentencers and practitioners alike.

“It also marks the end of the first phase of the Council’s work. Since the Council was established in 2015, our focus has been on completing a suite of three general guidelines which will set out a high-level framework for sentencing in Scotland. The sentencing young people guideline is the final part of that framework and its approval allows us to turn our full attention to guidelines on specific offences.

“The Council is grateful to all those who have contributed to the development of this guideline, from members of the judiciary and others who engaged with us in the early stages of our research and evidence-gathering, to the individuals and organisations who responded to the public consultation.”

The sentencing young people guideline is intended to be read alongside the first two of the Council’s guidelines approved by the High Court, ‘Principles and purposes of sentencing’ and ‘The sentencing process’. Together, these guidelines will apply to all offences in all courts in Scotland, supporting consistency in sentencing and improving public understanding of how sentencing decisions are made.

The Council will soon publish its third business plan, setting out its proposed work programme for the period 2021-24. It will also provide an update on the work currently being carried out by the Council, in particular the development of guidelines in respect of death by driving offences and sexual offences involving rape, sexual assault and indecent images of children.

The sentencing young people guideline is available here.

The impact assessment on the guideline is available here.