The sentencing young people guideline developed by the Scottish Sentencing Council comes into effect in all courts in Scotland today.

It applies to the sentencing of those who are under the age of 25 at the date of their plea of guilty or when a finding of guilt is made against them.

Developed over a period of consultation and research and approved by the High Court in November 2021, the guideline reflects scientific evidence on the development of cognitive maturity. It recognises that a young person will generally have a lower level of maturity, and a greater capacity for change and rehabilitation, than an older person.

For this reason, it states that rehabilitation should be a primary consideration when sentencing a young person. A court should ensure that it has sufficient information to assess the maturity of the young person and to identify and impose the most appropriate sentence. This includes information about factors common to many young people who commit offences, such as addiction, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences.

The Council considers that this will help to achieve one of the guideline’s key aims: to reduce reoffending among young people, and thereby help to increase public safety.

Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and chair of the Council, said: "The sentencing young people guideline is the Scottish Sentencing Council’s third general guideline. It joins, and must be read alongside, the principles and purposes of sentencing and the sentencing process guidelines as part of a framework for all sentencing decisions in Scotland.

"The Council considers that by setting out the various matters which should be taken into account when sentencing a young person, the guideline will help to increase public understanding and awareness of why this is a different exercise to the sentencing of a fully mature adult, with rehabilitation as primary consideration.

"It is important to note that the guideline does not affect the centrality of the harm caused to a victim in assessing the level of seriousness of an offence. It also does not prevent other purposes of sentencing, such as protection of the public, or the full range of sentencing options, from being considered by courts when sentencing a young person."

A feature on the guideline leads this month's Journal.