Time is running out to have your say on sentencing young people guideline.

Time is now running out for people to have their say and help shape an important sentencing guideline which will influence how up to 17,000 young people are sentenced by criminal courts in Scotland each year. 

Sentencing young people is a complex and challenging exercise which requires a more individualistic approach, with a need to take the unique personal circumstances of the young person into account.

The Scottish Sentencing Council believe a guideline will increase public knowledge and confidence by explaining the process involved in sentencing a young person, and increasing understanding of the factors which are taken into account when sentencing young people. It will further assist judges and lawyers and promote consistency in the sentencing of young people.

After developing its draft guideline the Council launched a 12 week public consultation back in February this year.

Although the consultation was originally due to close in May, it was extended for a further three months in light of the many challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. People now have until Friday 21 August to give their views on the draft guideline.

The Scottish Sentencing Council would especially like to hear from those who have experience of the criminal justice system, including from victims and victims’ organisations, and those with a particular interest in the sentencing of young people.

The guideline sets out what makes young people different from fully mature adults and how this affects the selection of the most appropriate sentence.

It encourages sentencers to take account of a young person’s maturity when assessing their blameworthiness for an offence. It also recognises that young people have a greater capacity for change, and that rehabilitation should therefore be given greater emphasis when sentencing young people who have offended.

Under the guideline, sentencers will also be asked to take into account factors common to many young people who commit offences, including adverse childhood experiences such as trauma or bereavement. An appropriate sentence for a young person should aim to increase the likelihood of reintegration into society; reduce the likelihood of unnecessary stigmatisation; and address the underlying causes of offending behaviour, all of which will help to reduce the likelihood of further offending.

The draft guideline, which will apply to all offences where the offender is under 25, preserves sentencers’ discretion to sentence young people in the manner they believe most appropriate.

It should also be read alongside the principles and purposes of sentencing guideline which states that the purposes of sentencing may include punishment; protection of the public; the need to take into account the impact on the victim and others affected by the case; rehabilitation of offenders; giving the offender the opportunity to make amends and expressing disapproval of offending behaviour.  These should also be considered in the sentencing of a young person.

More details about the consultation, including how to respond, can be found at: https://consultations.scottishsentencingcouncil.org.uk/