Scottish Sentencing Council to develop guidelines on sexual offences and sentence discounting

Following on from the first guideline being approved, the Council has also published its 2018-21 Business Plan today.

Developing guidelines on sexual offences and sentence discounting will now be included in its planned work programme for the next 3 years. This is in addition to continuing work on guidelines relating to the sentencing process, sentencing young people, causing death by driving, and environmental and wildlife offences.

Lady Dorrian added: “Sexual offending has increasingly become an area of public concern in recent years, with increased reporting, prevention and enforcement action. Sexual offences account for a high proportion of sentencing, particularly in the High Court, often involving difficult decisions in complex circumstances.  This is an area of great public importance in which we believe a guideline or guidelines would bring significant benefits to the judiciary, those who have been involved in such cases, and to the wider public.

“Sentence discounting is also an area in which we consider guidance would be helpful. Support and advocacy organisations tell us that victims and their families sometimes find it difficult to understand why a discounted sentence has been given in certain circumstances and there is anecdotal evidence from practitioners that a guideline would also provide greater predictability for accused persons.”

As a high proportion of offenders have experienced difficulties with mental health or mental illness, the Sentencing Council is also interested in exploring the subject of sentencing people with mental welfare issues. The Council plans to hold discussions with interested stakeholders to learn more about the issues arising with a view to considering what, if any, activity the Council might undertake in this area.

The Council will also carry out preparatory and scoping work in relation to the new domestic abuse offence, once it is brought into force.