Scots judges back sentencing system

High Court judges in Scotland have welcomed the development of a computer-based sentencing information system (SIS), according to a feasibility report carried out by Strathclyde University Law School.

Sentencing information systems are designed to help judges by revealing sentencing patterns for cases involving similar offences and offender characteristics.

The recently published report concludes that developing an SIS for the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland is feasible and would be welcomed by the judiciary.

The research team set up a prototype system based on more than 4,000 High Court cases sentenced over five years from 1989.

It says the system will be of practical benefit because it was developed in close consultation with judges and will encourage consistency in sentencing without restricting judicial discretion. The team has now been commissioned to add more recent cases to the database and to develop it further.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton QC, Minister of State at the Scottish Office, said: “I understand that the system is already being used by some judges and is seen as being of particular value to new judges in arriving at sentencing decisions.”

A Lord Chancellor's Department spokesman said 320 judges in England and Wales had access to the Judith system which allowed them to manage their own cases, but there is no access to a central database listing sentences.