Sentencing young people guideline comes into effect
A NEW sentencing guideline developed by the Scottish Sentencing Council comes into effect in all courts in Scotland today (Wednesday, 26 January 2022).
The sentencing young people guideline applies 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.
It was developed over an intensive period of stakeholder engagement and research, culminating in a full public consultation in 2020 and its approval by the High Court on 09 November 2021.
Reflecting compelling scientific evidence on the development of cognitive maturity, the guideline says that a young person will generally have a lower level of maturity, and a greater capacity for change and rehabilitation, than an older person.
For this reason, it states that rehabilitation should be a primary consideration when sentencing a young person.
The Council considers that this will help to achieve one of the guideline’s key aims: to reduce reoffending among young people, and thereby help to increase public safety.
The guideline says that a court should ensure that it has sufficient information to assess the maturity of the young person and to identify and impose the most appropriate sentence. This includes information about factors common to many young people who commit offences, such as addiction, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences.
Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and Chair of the Council, said:
“The sentencing young people guideline is the Scottish Sentencing Council’s third general guideline. It joins, and must be read alongside, the principles and purposes of sentencing and the sentencing process guidelines as part of a framework for all sentencing decisions in Scotland.
“The Council considers that by setting out the various matters which should be taken into account when sentencing a young person, the guideline will help to increase public understanding and awareness of why this is a different exercise to the sentencing of a fully mature adult, with rehabilitation as primary consideration.
It is important to note that the guideline does not affect the centrality of the harm caused to a victim in assessing the level of seriousness of an offence. It also does not prevent other purposes of sentencing, such as protection of the public, or the full range of sentencing options, from being considered by courts when sentencing a young person.”
An interview with Lady Dorrian discussing key aspects of the guideline can be viewed below. This was recorded when the Council announced its final decisions about the guideline in September 2021:
The Council recently published its third business plan, setting out its proposed work programme for the period 2021-24. This includes the development of guidelines in respect of death by driving offences, sexual offences involving rape, sexual assault and indecent images of children, and domestic abuse offences.
Links to the sentencing young people guideline, and other relevant documents, can be found below.