The sentencing process guideline developed by the Scottish Sentencing Council comes into force today.

Approved by the High Court of Justiciary in July, the guideline sets out eight steps which courts should follow in order to reach a sentencing decision. It is aimed at achieving a consistent approach by the courts while increasing public knowledge and understanding of the sentencing process, by making the process more transparent.

The eight steps of the sentencing process are split into three categories: arriving at the headline sentence, by considering the seriousness of the offence, the sentence range and any aggravating and mitigating factors (steps 1-4); other considerations such as early plea of guilty, time spent in custody, and any ancillary orders that could be made (such as a non-harassment order in a domestic abuse case (steps 5-7); and imposing sentence (step 8).

This is the second sentencing guideline to be approved by the High Court and is intended to be read alongside the Principles and purposes of sentencing guideline, which has been in force since November 2018. The Council recently submitted to the High Court a further guideline on sentencing young people (news item here).

Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull, chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council’s Sentencing Process Committee, commented: "The introduction of the sentencing process guideline is a significant milestone in the Council’s work to make sentencing more open and transparent in Scotland.

"People will now be able to see the steps a court follows in order to arrive at an appropriate sentence, and some of the factors which are taken into account.   

"The Council believes this guideline will promote a consistent approach to sentencing and will enhance understanding of how sentencing works in Scotland’s courts."