Justice secretary Angela Constance has met with a senior member of Scotland’s judiciary over guidelines on the sentencing of young people.
First Minister Humza Yousaf said Constance had met “very recently” with Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk and chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council.
Discussions took place about the council’s plans to keep sentencing guidelines “under review”, the First Minister added.
It came as he was challenged in the wake of “public concern about the leniency of sentencing” in the case of Sean Hogg, who was given a community payback order for raping a 13-year-old girl because he was 17 at the time of the offence.
His sentence has now been appealed by the Crown on the basis it was “unduly lenient”.
Labour’s Pauline McNeill also said a discount had been applied in the case of Rhys Bennett, 23, who was jailed for at least 24 years for murdering mother-of-two Jill Barclay, who he raped and set alight.
McNeill said sentencing guidelines, which apply to offenders under the age of 25, mean “there was a reduction in the sentence of four years”.
Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, she asked Yousaf: “When it comes to horrific crimes as serious as rape and murder, does the First Minister believe there should be a reduced sentence for under-25s?”
Yousaf responded: “For me it is absolutely right that the decisions on sentencing are for the independent judiciary.
“But it must always be the case, even in those cases where there are particularly heinous crimes, that sentencing is always a matter for the independent judiciary and should be free from any political interference whatsoever.”
He told McNeill that when he was justice secretary he had seen a “near final draft” of the guidelines, adding the Sentencing Council had taken an “evidence-led, collaborative approach” when developing them.
There was a “mountain of evidence” which helped produce them, the First Minister added, noting also that they had been subject to public consultation.
Yousaf told MSPs: “It should be noted the position in the guidelines is that custody is still an option for sentencing young people, and it is of course completely right this option remains available to the court in any given case.
“The cabinet secretary for justice and home affairs Angela Constance met very recently with Lady Dorrian to discuss how the council plans to keep these guidelines under review.”
The guidelines, which came into force in January 2022, state that rehabilitation should be a “primary consideration” when sentencing someone under the age of 25.