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Is prison always the right punishment?

A man who was 17 at the time he raped a 13-year-old girl in Scotland has been sentenced to 270 hours of community service. Our editorial team was surprised by the leniency of this sentence and so we did some further investigation into the details of the case. It seems that a new ruling in Scotland played a significant role.

The sentence handed down to perpetrator Sean Hogg was called 'extraordinary' by leading lawyer Tommy Ross KC. The judge in the case, Lord Lake, said that if Hogg had been over 25, he would have received a jail sentence of four or five years. The community sentence of 270 hours has been condemned by politicians and described as 'inexplicable' by Rape Crisis Scotland. First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf said he sympathised with the reaction but stressed that sentencing was a matter for the judiciary. New guidelines were introduced in Scotland in January 2022, recommending a more individualistic approach to sentencing under 25s, with rehabilitation rather than punishment as the primary consideration. Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said "Of course the role of the justice system should be about rehabilitation, but there also needs to be a sense of it giving some sense of justice for victims of crime. I just don't see how this sentence can do that."

We'd like to find out what humanists think about this. Do most humanists think that Scotland's approach is more humanistic? Or should the perpetrator in this case have been given a prison sentence? Does being locked up actually do any good? Or does it just appease those who wish to inflict suffering on the perpetrator? How can the root cause of criminal behaviour be addressed?

Tell us what you think in the Comments section below.


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Story by Aaron the Humanist

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