The Scottish justice minister has urged Tele readers to have their say on sentencing guidelines for child sex offenders.
In a letter to the newspaper, Humza Yousaf responded to our call for mandatory jail sentences for paedophiles, after the Our Kids Need Justice petition reached almost 12,000 signatures.
However, local child abuse campaigners have criticised the minister’s response, with one stating she “wasn’t impressed.”
Beth Morrison, who has spent years campaigning for children’s rights said: “This is an extremely disappointing reply, it isn’t even relevant to what The Tele is trying to do.”
Beth said she questioned if the minister had even read the response before he signed it, never mind writing it himself.
“We’re concerned about the lack of justice for child abusers in Scotland.
“He can quote all the figures he likes, but we all know figures can be manipulated. How many cases are not even getting as far as court?”
The Scottish Sentencing Council is running a public consultation on sentencing guidelines for judges, with a particular focus on sex offences.
After the Tele delivered its 11,800 signature petition to Holyrood, Mr Yousaf responded in writing saying: “Sexual offences, especially involving children, rightly evoke public condemnation.
“It is the role of government and parliament to ensure there is a clear framework for sentencing offenders, while supporting victims and protecting the public.
“To help the courts, the sentencing council is prioritising work on new sexual offence guidelines for specific sexual offences, informed by a public consultation.
“When the consultation is held, I urge all those with an interest to make their views known.”
However, Mr Yousaf added: “While I understand why some people may want automatic jail terms for specific categories of crimes, it should be up to courts to make these decisions based on all the facts of each case, taking into account previous convictions, the likelihood of future offending and opportunities for rehabilitation.”
The minister also said: “The courts hear the details and circumstances of each case.
“They are best placed to decide how to sentence, including whether life sentences are needed for the most serious and dangerous sex offenders.”
Scottish child abuse campaigner Dave Sharp said: “The people of Dundee have done their own consultation and now have a voice of almost 12,000.
“They are demanding there is a clear framework for sentencing offenders, while supporting victims and protecting the public.”
He added: “The general public in Scotland are not comfortable when they hear the justice minister saying he has created orders to restrict offenders’ activities.
“What we want to hear is measures being taken to prevent these offences and mandatory sentencing has to be enforced.
“It removes opportunity from criminals by locking them up, and it deters them through threats of jail time and higher penalties.”
Laurie Matthew, of Dundee children’s charity Eighteen and Under, said: “The minister’s statement that it’s up to the courts about sentencing is interesting.
“Not everyone is happy with the decisions that the courts are making, which is surely the point of the campaign.
“In fact, many people are very unhappy about the sentencing that the courts give out to sexual offenders.”