MEETING HELD FOLLOWING CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LOCAL MSP AND JUSTICE SECRETARY
Local MSP for Dundee City East, Shona Robison, has met with the Scottish Sentencing Council to discuss the process of establishing guidelines in respect of mandatory sentencing for sexual offences.
Ms Robison met with Sheriff McFadyen and Graham Ackerman, Secretary, from the Scottish Sentencing Council on Wednesday 26th September at the Scottish Parliament.
The Dundee City East MSP directly raised the Evening Telegraph’s “Our Kids Need Justice” campaign and asked about the process of developing a sentencing guideline in this area.
The meeting follows recent correspondence between Ms Robison and the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, to discuss the issue in detail. Mr Yousaf has written to Ms Robison on the issue and has formally responded to a question submitted to the Scottish Government by Ms Robison.
The Scottish Sentencing Council, established in 2015, is set to publish its new business plan in October. This plan will set out the areas on which the Sentencing Council will focus their work over the next three years.
The meeting discussed the ways in which the Sentencing Council worked to develop guidelines for sentencing and how these would be informed and discussed.
The Scottish Sentencing Council will soon be publishing a guide to how they develop sentencing guidelines, to widen public understanding of the rigorous process to which the council operates.
Ms Robison advised the Sentencing Council that she hoped developing guidelines on child sexual offences would form part of their new business plan.
The MSP also encouraged a public consultation event to be held in Dundee, so that the Sentencing Council would be able to listen directly to local concerns on this issue.
Commenting, Shona Robison stated:
“This was a very helpful and informative meeting with the Scottish Sentencing Council.
“The meeting clarified the process through which the Sentencing Council would develop any guideline framework moving forward.
“It is clear that the Our Kids Need Justice campaign has struck a chord throughout Dundee. Tackling these abhorrent crimes against children must be an absolute priority.
“I am pleased that the Sentencing Council have agreed to meet with me again to discuss this issue following the publication of their business plan.
“I have also encouraged the Sentencing Council to consider holding a public consultation event in Dundee, so that local residents can have their say.”
Shona Robison had previously written to the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, and asked a Parliamentary question on the issue. Ms Robison asked: “what actions are being taken to tackle sexual offences, particularly those involving children.”
In a letter written to Ms Robison, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf stated:
“I am aware of the campaign launched by the Dundee Evening Telegraph in relation to how the courts sentence people convicted of sexual offences against children.
“These are horrific crimes which can devastate the lives of the children affected and their families.
“It is right that the courts have extensive powers to deal with people convicted of these types of offences with the sentencing powers of the court allowing for maximum penalties all the way up to life imprisonment depending on the specific offence that may have been committed.”
On the subject of introducing mandatory sentencing, the Justice Secretary stated that he is “happy to keep an open mind on all requests made about how our justice system operates”.
With regards to developing a sentencing guideline, Mr Yousaf stated that “such a decision would be for [the Sentencing Council] to make as an independent body.”
Commenting on the response from the Justice Secretary, Ms Robison stated:
“This is a helpful and encouraging reply.
“It is fundamentally important that any sentencing guidelines that are developed are well-informed and made independently, in a way which protects the independence of our judiciary.
“I am sure that Evening Telegraph readers will be pleased to know the Justice Secretary is following the Our Kids Need Justice campaign closely.”