Shona Robison has met Scottish justice chiefs to discuss jailing people who commit sex crimes against children after the Tele called for those convicted of such offences to be locked up.
The Dundee MSP said the Our Kids Need Justice campaign, which is pushing for mandatory custodial spells for convicted perverts, had “struck a chord” across Dundee.
Ms Robison met Sheriff Norman McFadyen and Graham Ackerman from the Scottish Sentencing Council last week to discuss the issue, and made direct reference to the Tele’s campaign.
She also brought the campaign to the attention of Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.
The SSC plans to meet Ms Robison again following the publication of its latest business plan later this month.
Ms Robison has encouraged the sentencing council to consider holding a public consultation event in Dundee to give locals a say.
She said: “This was a very helpful and informative meeting with the Scottish Sentencing Council.
“The meeting clarified the process through which the Sentencing Council would develop any guideline framework moving forward.
“It is clear that the Our Kids Need Justice campaign has struck a chord throughout Dundee. A small number of constituents have contacted me supporting the campaign.
“Tackling these abhorrent crimes against children must be an absolute priority.”
The Tele launched the Our Kids Need Justice campaign in July in response to a trend of people convicted of sex crimes against children walking out of court with community sentences.
It aims to encourage the SSC to write mandatory jail time for such offenders into law.
It is currently preparing to consult on formal guidelines on sentencing people convicted of sex offences – including offences against children.
Ms Robison said: “The publication of the business plan from the sentencing council would be the first step in establishing sentencing guidelines.
“The business plan will be published this month, and I am hopeful that the plan will include a commitment to consult on a specific sentencing guideline for offences against children.”
Asked if she backed mandatory jail sentences, Ms Robison said: “I’m very sympathetic to the arguments. However, I strongly believe that the best way forward would be to establish a guideline which helps to deliver consistency of sentencing in this area – as well as better protecting children – while also ensuring that we protect the independence of the judiciary.
“This is a complex area of law, which is why it is right that the sentencing council has a proper look at the evidence as well as evaluating the practical effects of a sentencing guideline. The council must ensure that any sentencing guideline actually delivers on better protecting children as well as delivering justice for victims.”
Following the launch of the Tele’s campaign, Ms Robison met Mr Yousaf to discuss the issue at length.
In a letter to the Dundee City East MSP following the meeting, Mr Yousaf wrote: “I am aware of the campaign launched by the Dundee Evening Telegraph in relation to how the courts sentence people convicted of sexual offences against children.
“These are horrific crimes which can devastate the lives of the children affected and their families.
“It is right that the courts have extensive powers to deal with people convicted of these types of offences.”
He added that he was “happy to keep an open mind on all requests made about how our justice system operates”.
Mr Yousaf also called on the sentencing council to take the views of locals into account, through their MSPs, when deciding future guidelines.
Alongside his letter, Mr Yousaf also publicly responded in parliament after Ms Robison raised the issue in the Holyrood chamber.
He pledged that the government was “committed to ensuring the criminal justice system and other agencies can respond appropriately and sensitively in dealing with the trauma caused by such cases”.
Ms Robison added: “This is a helpful and encouraging reply.
“I am sure that Evening Telegraph readers will be pleased to know the justice secretary is following the Our Kids Need Justice campaign closely.”