Date Announced for Creation of Scottish Sentencing Council

A date has been announed for the establishment of the Scottish Sentencing Council (SSC).  The Scottish Government has announced that the SSC will be established by October 2015 with a view to having its first meeting in November of this year.


In a recent announcement the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, stated:-


“We want to ensure that Scotland continues to have the most transparent criminal justice system possible.


Sentencing can be extremely complicated… the new Scottish Sentencing Council will offer greater clarity and openness around why and how sentences are decided while giving the public better understanding of the process.”


The SSC will be Chaired by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway.  In addition, the SSC will comprise five judicial office holders, three legal member, a police officer, a victims representative and another non-judicial member.


The Lord Justice Clerk has welcomed the progress made towards establishing the SSC.  He further stated:-


“The creation of the Council, with its responsibility to prepare guidelines to assist the Courts in sentencing and to describe the potential effects of those guidelines, will help to ensure a consistent and coherent approach to sentencing practice and policy in Scotland.


It will also assist the public, by providing information on sentencing matters and by improving understanding and awareness of the sentencing process.


Importantly, the founding legislation provides for a broad and inclusive range of experience across the Council membership.  This will place it in good stead for carrying out the significant tasks ahead.”


Legislation to create the SSC is to be found in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.  Section 2 of the Act outlines the Council’s objective which are to:-


(a) To promote consistency in sentencing practice,

(b) Assist the development of policy in relation to sentencing,

(c) Promote greater awareness and understanding of sentence policy and practice


The Council will, from time to time, prepare guidelines relating to the sentincing of offenders.  These guidelines will require to be approved by the High Court of Justiciary.  Sentencing guidelines may relate to the principles and purposes of sentencing, sentencing levels, the particular types of sentence that are appropriate for particular types of offence or offender and circumstances in which the guidelines may be departed from.

This represents yet another innovation in the Scottish criminal Justice system. The various tiers of our courts have never been subject to clearly defined sentencing guidelines beyond a few such guidelines for particular types of offence following decisions by the Court of Appeal.  By contrast, in England the courts have been bound by detailed sentencing guidelines for many years.