Yousaf: Prime Minister should not intervene in sentencing decisions

Humza Yousaf has said the prime minister should not intervene in sentencing decisions in response to calls to review the guidelines after a man who raped a 13-year-old girl escaped jail.

Speaking to reporters on a visit to Aberdeen on Tuesday, Yousaf said he “understood” the concerns people had raised but had to be “careful” as the Prime Minister should not be involved in sentencing decisions.

Sean Hogg, 21, received a community payment order after his conviction, forcing him to complete 270 hours of unpaid work.

He raped the girl, then 13, on multiple occasions at Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian when she was 17.

The sentence has caused outrage among feminist groups including Rape Crisis Scotland, which called it “worryingly lenient”.

Scottish Conservatives’ justice spokesman Jamie Greene has written to new Justice Secretary Angela Constance calling for a review with a view to “removing the guidelines” so that convicted rapists do not evade a prison sentence because they are under 25 years.

The guidance, which came into force early last year, said: “A custodial sentence should only be imposed on a young person where the court is satisfied that no further sentence is appropriate.

“If a custodial sentence is imposed on a young person, it must be shorter than that which would have been imposed on an older person for the same or a similar offence.”

But Yousaf insisted that the judiciary, which handed down the sentence, is independent from the government and ministers.

He said: “That has to be a decision of the courts. And, of course, I have also read comments in the press that the Crown may be considering an appeal against that ruling. Again, that is a decision for the Crown to make, independently of government ministers.”

The Prime Minister said he “understood” the concerns, but said it was an “exceptional case” and that in the vast majority of cases where someone is convicted of rape, it ends with a custodial sentence.

Yousaf added: “I can again understand why people are concerned about this particular case, but it is very important that the government does not intervene or interfere in the decisions that our judiciary makes.

“Sentencing guidelines are not determined by government ministers, but rightly so by the Sentencing Council, which is run by the judiciary.

“In general, when I was secretary of justice, the rehabilitation and rehabilitation of criminals was an important topic.

“We don’t want people to be in that revolving door of going from prison, out into the community, and back.

“But of course, in this case, in a case where someone has been convicted of rape, I can fully understand the concerns that people have about the sentence that has been handed down in this particular case, but again it is up to the judiciary make a decision. determination is the same as for the Crown to make an independent decision on whether to challenge that as unduly lenient or not.”


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