THE body responsible for setting sentencing guidelines has defended its rules following public outcry sparked by a child rapist dodging jail.

The Scottish Sentencing Council, a body which is not controlled by the Government, was responsible for setting the lenient guidelines for young offenders which allowed Judge Lord Lake to spare Sean Hogg from jail – despite being found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl.

The 21-year-old walked from Glasgow High Court with a 270-hour community payback order on Monday because the judge referred to sentencing guidelines drawn up by the body which instructed him to pay heed to the potential for rehabilitation of young offenders and their immaturity.

Top Scottish human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar pointed out on social media on Tuesday the judge would have been able to send Hogg to prison under the current rules.

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The Scottish Sentencing Council defended its policies in a statement to the press, arguing they were backed by independent research conducted by psychologists at Edinburgh University.

The council also said it was in the process of drawing up guidelines for sentencing rapists, on which members of the public could submit their views through a consultation.

A spokesperson for the organisation 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.

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“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.”