Scotland's first court sentencing guidelines come into force

Image caption Three senior judges approved the guidelines after a public consultation

Scotland's first sentencing guidelines for how courts deal with all offenders have come into force.

The guidelines were approved by three senior judges last month.

The core principle of sentencing is stated to be "fairness and proportionality".

Lady Dorian, chairwoman of the Scottish Sentencing Council and Scotland's second most senior judge, said the guidelines would support consistency in sentencing and decision-making.

The council previously held a three-month public consultation on sentencing recommendations.

The approved document requires judges to consider the seriousness of the offence, the impact on the victim and others and the offender's circumstances.

Sentences should be "no more severe than is necessary to achieve the appropriate purposes of sentencing".

Image copyright Scottish Court Service
Image caption The guidelines aim to "support consistency in sentencing and decision-making"

The reasons for sentencing decisions must be stated "as clearly and openly as circumstances permit", according to the document.

Some of the purposes which sentencing may seek to achieve are also set out, such as protection of the public, punishment and rehabilitation.

If judges decide not to follow the guidelines, they must state the reasons behind the decision.

Lady Dorrian said they would provide "significant benefits to both the courts and the public".

She added: "In particular, we expect that transparency in sentencing will increase, with more clarity around how particular decisions are reached and the various factors which are taken into account.

"This guideline will also form a strong foundation for our future work in developing further sentencing guidelines, including those which will apply to particular offences."

The Scottish Sentencing Council is also working on guidelines covering topics such as the sentencing of young people, causing death by dangerous driving and environmental offences.

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