Law chiefs are facing demands for an urgent change in the way sexual assault crimes are dealt with by courts folliwng the case of a teenager who escaped jail after offences involving a six-year-old girl.
The Scottish Sentencing Council says it is aware the area has become one of “increasing” public concern and says it intends to update its guidelines which will make the process more transparent to the public.
Christopher Daniel, who wants to be a dentist, was found guilty of repeated sexual assaults on the young girl over two years, but granted an absolute discharge by sheriff Gerard Sinclair. It means Daniel, who was between 15 and 17 at the time, won’t go on the sex offenders register or have a criminal record.
Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson has now written to the Sentencing Council calling for change.
“I am deeply concerned that as well as the distress the verdict has caused for the victim’s family, there is a risk of disillusionment and lack of confidence in our sheriffs,” he said.
“I see from your website that you are currently developing guidelines on the sentencing process, the sentencing of young people, death by driving and environmental and wildlife crime. I would ask that in light of the recent choice not to pass sentence on Christopher Daniel and the public response, the Sentencing Council consider making developing guidelines on sexual assault, giving particular attention to sentencing of young people, a matter of urgency.”
Mr Sinclair noted the victim of Daniel’s sexual assaults “appeared to have suffered no injury or long-lasting effects.”
A spokesman for the Sentencing council said individual cases are a matter for the presiding judge.
But he added; “We are aware that sexual offending has increasingly become an area of public concern in recent years. Sentencing in such cases often involves difficult decisions in complex circumstances, particularly where the victim, offender, or both, are children. We recently announced our intention to develop sentencing guidelines in relation to sexual offences, which we believe will bring significant benefits both to the judiciary and to the public, particularly in explaining how sentencing decisions are reached.
“We are also developing a separate guideline specifically in relation to the sentencing of young people.”