A PETITION has been launched to jail a child rapist who was spared prison despite being found guilty of “horrific” crimes.

Sean Hogg, 21, of Hamilton, dodged a jail sentence when he was handed a 270-hour community payback order – despite being found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl at Glasgow High Court on Monday.

The judge’s decision, informed by controversial sentencing guidelines for people under the age of 25, has sparked fury and a petition has been launched to urge the Justice Secretary to intervene in the case.

The petitioners called the sentence “grossly inadequate” and said the sentence must be changed to reflect the seriousness of the offence.

The petition, started by Linda Scott, reads: “We cannot allow rapists to walk out of court with their freedom. With a crime that is already difficult to prosecute, it makes a mockery of our court system and makes it look like child rape and sexual abuse are not taken seriously in this country.”

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At the time of writing the petition has garnered 176 signatures.

Angela Constance, recently appointed as Justice Secretary, is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to scrap the lenient sentencing guidelines which allowed Hogg to avoid prison.

The party’s justice spokesperson Jamie Greene said: “The so-called punishment of a community payback order is a total insult to the victim in this case, who will be scarred for life by these attacks.

“It is clear that the sentencing guidelines brought into force last year and wholeheartedly backed by SNP ministers are behind this appalling decision.

“Judges’ hands are being increasingly tied as they have to follow guidelines which effectively say adults under 25 should not be going to prison unless all other avenues have been exhausted.

“I warned at the time that these new guidelines were misguided and dangerous and sadly my worst fears have been realised. We must stop wrapping dangerous adult criminals in cotton wool.”

The Scottish Sentencing Council, a body not under the government’s control, is responsible for drawing up sentencing guidelines and is formed of judges, lawyers and police officers.

Its guidelines require judges to apply leniency for offenders by considering their relative immaturity and the potential for increased rehabilitation, considerations the council says are backed up by research.

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Sentencing Council defended its guidelines for young offenders and said new rules were being drawn up for rape convictions. 

They said: "The Sentencing Young People guideline has been approved by the High Court and is based on robust, independently-assessed evidence from around the world into the cognitive development of young people.

"The guideline makes it clear that the full range of sentencing options remains open to the court, including imprisonment.

"It also states that because young people have a greater capacity to change rehabilitation should, where appropriate, be a primary consideration to reduce the risk of reoffending.

"The sentencing decision in any individual case is always for the independent judge and will be based upon the unique circumstances of the case.

"When considering a case, a judge must always consider the harm caused to the victim as well as the culpability and circumstances of the offender.

"Sentencing guidelines are just that – guidelines. Where appropriate a judge can decide not to follow a guideline, but must give their reasons.

"The council is currently developing a guideline on sentencing rape offences. This will include a full public consultation.

"Responses will be carefully considered before a draft guideline is submitted to the High Court for approval.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.