Mandatory Sentences of Imprisonment in Common Law Jurisdictions: Some Representative Models

4. Scotland

4.1 Summary

Scotland uses the term "automatic sentence" or "required custodial sentence" in addition to "mandatory sentence" in its legislation. Scottish law provides mandatory sentences for a variety of serious repeat offences as well as other offences, some of which mirror those found in England and Wales . In addition to a life sentence for murder, the legislation provides a minimum of 7 years for repeat drug traffickers. Mandatory sentencing in Scotland is somewhat complicated by the fact that there are mandatory sentence provisions in the 1997 Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act which has yet to become law. As is the case in most other jurisdictions, Scottish courts may impose a less severe sanction where it would be unjust to impose the mandatory sentence. In situations where judges impose a sentence below the minimum, they must provide reasons in open court. The drug offence legislation is enumerated below. (See Appendix C.)

4.2 Overview of Sentencing Framework

Although part of the United Kingdom , Scotland has its own criminal justice system. Many of the statutes in England and Wales have equivalents in Scotland , and with the exception of the juvenile justice system, there are important parallels between the two jurisdictions. As with most other common law jurisdictions, Scottish courts have considerable discretion at the sentencing stage of the criminal process. No formal sentencing guidelines currently exist[15] and at present, Scotland does not have any codified sentencing purposes or principles.

4.3 The Future of Mandatory Sentencing in Scotland

There is no discussion at present to create any new mandatory sentences of imprisonment, nor is there any movement to repeal current penalties. No impact analysis research has been conducted to date.

[15] Scottish judges do have a computerized sentencing information system that may well promote uniformity in sentencing.

Date modified: