Saturday, 14 February 2015

The ULS (Unduly Lenient Sentences) Scheme - an Update

In previous posts I have explained how the ULS scheme works in the UK, and how any member of the public can appeal against sentences that appear "unduly lenient", providing the conditions are met (sentence was passed down in a Crown Court, and within 28 days of sentencing). In my previous posts I have indicated the e-mail addresses for England and Scotland, as I understood at the time.

However it appears that Scotland does not have the same sort of scheme as England.

In January, there was a story of a paedophile, in Scotland, who molested a nine year old girl in her bed with her six year old brother in a bed next to her. His "punishment" (if that is what it can be called) was 200 hours Community Service over a period of nine months.

The old cliché "couldn't make it up" comes to mind.

So, this was a case that I appealed against, in the usual way. I have to admit, I have not appealed against many Scottish cases, most of the ones I have done are for English cases.

Yesterday I found out, by return e-mail, that for sentences passed down in Scotland the public cannot make a "ULS" appeal (the first time that I have been told of this - normally the e-mails I receive back are acknowledgements and I don't hear anything else).

It seems that the only people that can appeal, are the offenders (if they consider the sentence to be too severe), and  the COPFS (Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service) if they consider sentences to be too lenient.

"Thank you for your email dated 10 January 2015 regarding a sentence that was imposed on an offender for child abuse.  Your email has been passed to the Criminal Law and Licensing Division and I have been asked to reply.
I wish to reassure you that the Scottish Government deplores sexual and physical abuse.  These deplorable crimes, which can have a devastating effect on victims and their families, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated and our communities must be protected from sex offenders.  We are working with all relevant agencies to ensure that children, young people and adults are given the best possible protection from harm. 
I have noted your comments regarding the sentence that was imposed.  I must advise you that the Scottish Ministers cannot offer a view on sentences imposed in individual cases.  The independence of the judiciary is an essential pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental guarantee of a fair trial in any modern civilised country.  That is why section 1 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 provides that Scottish Ministers must not seek to influence judicial decisions.  Therefore, you will understand why the Scottish Government will not offer a specific view on any individual sentencing decision made by our courts. 
It is the case that judges are best placed to decide on an appropriate sentence for each offender before them as they hear all the facts and circumstances of a case before they then make their sentencing decisions within the overall legal framework provided by Parliament.   If the judge considers an offence, based on all the facts of the particular case, merits a tough and lengthy custodial sentence, then this Government fully supports that. 
In relation to your request that an appeal be lodged against the sentence, it may be helpful if I explain more about appeals process within the justice system in Scotland.  Anyone who is convicted of a crime in Scotland can appeal against the sentence if they consider it is too severe.  Equally, the independent Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) can appeal against a sentence if they feel it is unduly lenient.  Crown Counsel will give careful consideration as to whether a sentence was unduly lenient or if the sentence imposed is within the range available to the judge in the exercise of their normal judicial discretion.  The decision to appeal against a sentence is a decision for the independent COPFS to make and, as with judicial decisions, the Scottish Government cannot intervene in such decisions.  Where COPFS appeal against a sentence as being unduly lenient, it is for the court to decide whether the appeal is successful.".

So, if there are any "couldn't make this shit up" decisions in Scotland, not much us the plebs can do. Shame, there have been many successful appeals in England, why don't the Scottish Government have a similar scheme.

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