New sentencing rules backed after the Tele campaign spotlights sex abuse

Politicians and charities have welcomed the decision to develop multiple sentences for people convicted of rape, sexual assault and possessing indecent images of children.

Lady Dorrian, chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council.

The Scottish Sentencing Committee has updated Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf on its review of sentencing guidelines for sexual offences, and says it wil focus on particular offences instead of developing a single framework covering all offences.

The news comes just weeks after the Evening Telegraph launched a petition as part of the Our Kids Need Justice campaign, calling for mandatory jail terms for child sex offenders, which has attracted more than 7,000 signatures.

You can add your own signature at the bottom of this page.

In a letter to Mr Yousaf, committee chairwoman Lady Dorrian acknowledged the “considerable interest” in sentencing sex offenders and said the decision would “allow for the first guidelines on sexual offending to be produced more quickly”.

She wrote: “Given the wide-ranging nature of sexual offending, the council has decided to develop multiple guidelines focusing on particular sexual offences, rather than a single guideline covering all offences.

“This will allow each topic to be given in-depth consideration, and for the first guidelines on sexual offending to be produced more quickly.”

The council has already carried out some preparatory work on sexual offences including holding discussions with the judiciary and victim support organisations to help identify particular challenges in sentencing, priority areas for guidance and topics for further research.

Manager of 18 and Under Laurie Matthews backed the SSC move and also saluted the Tele for the Our Kids Need Justice campaign.

She said: “This is definitely a step forward.

“I am all for it, providing that some crimes are not minimised the way they are just now. For example, indecent images of children seem to get a particularly light sentence.

“So this is definitely a step in the right direction and it might give some sort of parity across the country and it would give judges and sheriffs guidelines.

“It could also be down to the Telegraph campaign which has been absolutely brilliant.

“Maybe it has taken a newspaper to move this along by giving the issue so much publicity.

“You often get people saying it’s terrible when someone gets a light sentence then they move on, but you guys publicise it and bring it back into the public eye time and time again.

“Indecent images is treated as if it is a victimless crime, but it’s not. Someone has to get hurt and I would certainly like to see common sense prevail.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers welcome this decision to develop multiple guidelines on sex offences and to prioritise this work.

“We have taken robust action to tackle sexual offending – encouraging more victims of recent and historical cases to come forward and improving support, while modernising the law on rape and other sexual offences for example ensuring police, prosecutors and the courts have stronger powers to deal with the rise in cyber-enabled crimes.”

MSP Liam Kerr also welcomed the move, saying: “Anything that raises the seriousness of these matters is to be welcomed.”

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