Labour calls for review into sentencing guidelines in Scotland

Victims and families are being let down by sentencing guidelines in Scotland, Scottish Labour has claimed.

The party’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson suggested that changes should be made to the current system in order to create a clearer policy on sentences.

Mr Johnson said there is currently a lack of transparency over why certain sentencing decisions are made.

“The current sentencing system in Scotland is letting down victims and families,” said the Labour MSP.

“When someone is convicted of a crime, people expect the punishment to be appropriate, but as we have seen in recent cases that doesn’t always happen and the public don’t get satisfactory answers as to why.

“Victims and their families need a justice system where sentences are clear and understood.

“A start to that would be to accept that the current approach has failed to produce transparency and consistency in sentencing that both victims and sentences need.”

The Sentencing Council, which was set up to write guidelines for sentencing policy, has only produced one set of guidelines in three-and-a-half years.

There is no formal guidance other than the general principles of sentencing and no guidance on serious and complex crimes.

Despite being part of the Sentencing Council’s remit to promote awareness and understanding of sentencing policy and practice among the public, Scottish Labour has suggested that individual victims and their families need more support.

The party has indicated that it will raise the issue for debate at the Scottish Parliament this week.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scotland’s justice system must have the needs of victims and witnesses at their heart. We are committed to working with Victim Support Scotland and others to improve the advice and support available to victims.

“The Victims Taskforce was established last year to drive forward work to ensures victims’ voices are heard and streamline their journey through the justice system.

“The Scottish Government legislated to introduce a Sentencing Council to improve transparency and understanding of sentencing. It is a matter for the Council how they progress their work with guidelines under development in a range of areas including the sentencing of young people.

“It is also progressing work on sexual offences that will lead to the development of a guideline. The Council undertakes extensive engagement and consultation as part of the process of developing guidelines.”

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