Scots sentencing body queried over gender equality

Christine Grahame expressed the "concerns" of MSPs. Picture: PA
Christine Grahame expressed the "concerns" of MSPs. Picture: PA
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CONCERNS have been raised with one of Scotland’s most senior judges about the representation of women on the country’s new sentencing council.

In a letter to Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice Clerk, MSP Christine Grahame said there appeared to be no formal requirement for gender equality to be considered regarding appointments to the Scottish Sentencing Council.

The new legal body, which will begin operating next month, is designed to promote consistency and transparency in sentencing as well as encourage better understanding of punishments handed down by Scotland’s courts.

The SSC will also be responsible for producing sentencing guidelines for the judiciary.

But in a letter sent in her capacity as convener of the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, Ms Grahame complained that there was nothing in the council’s formulation which would hold it to the Scottish Government’s “50:50 by 2020” aim of achieving gender parity in boardrooms.

Ms Grahame said there was “some concern” among MSPs on the committee that equality issues would not be taken into account during the appointment process.

“The committee noted that such a formal requirement is found in the appointment process for some other public or statutory bodies,” she wrote.

“The Scottish Government’s ‘50:50 by 2020’ campaign to achieve gender parity on the boards of private, public and third sector bodies was also noted.

“The committee respects the crucial principle of independence in judicial decision-making, but hopes you will agree that these comments - which relate solely to the issue of considering the importance of equality and diversity in making public appointments and in seeking to achieve gender parity in those appointments - are not intended to compromise that principle.”

She added: “We would be grateful if, as acting head of the Scottish judiciary and as prospective chair of the council, you take these comments into account for the purposes of the council’s appointment process.”

Five judicial appointments will be made to the council in addition to Lord Carloway.

There will also be three legal members - a prosecutor, solicitor and an advocate, as well as three lay members. The lay members will be appointed by the Scottish Government.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the SNP’s Women’s Pledge earlier this year, saying she wanted to put gender equality at the “heart” of her party’s general election campaign.

But the first minister came under fire after it emerged that a flagship body set up by the SNP to deliver major building projects had no women serving on the boards of its five “hub companies”.

Ms Sturgeon was accused of letting women down by failing to address the issue of the all-male boards at the Scottish ­Futures Trust companies.

The Judicial Office for Scotland was unavailable for comment on Ms Grahame’s letter.