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04th Apr 2023

Outrage as man, 21, who raped girl, 13, walks free after judge says he’s too young for jail

Steve Hopkins

‘A total insult to the young teenage victim in this case’

A 21-year-old man has escaped a prison sentence after being found guilty of raping a teenage girl, with a judge saying he was too young to be jailed.

Sean Hogg, 21, was found guilty of raping the teen at Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian, Scotland, when he was 17, and was this week ordered to undertake 270 hours unpaid work in a sentencing that has outraged rape charities.

Rape Crisis Scotland’s CEO Sandy Brindley descried the sentencing as “worryingly lenient”.

She said: “This is an extremely serious case and we are shocked this perpetrator has not received a custodial sentence.

“Given the gravity of this crime and the fact it was tried at the High Court, this sentence appears to us to be worryingly lenient. “Our thoughts are with the survivor of this crime. For survivors of any sexual violence, it can be very difficult to see reports of convicted perpetrators walking free from court.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene said: “The lack of a prison sentence is a total insult to the young teenage victim in this case.

“It once again reaffirms how misguided the SNP’s sentencing guidelines are in reality and how judges’ hands are tied as a result.”

According to new guidance by the Scottish Sentencing Council – set up by SNP ministers in 2015 – criminals under the age of 25 are treated more leniently due to their “lower level of maturity”.

The court heard that Hogg attacked the victim on several occasions between March and June 2018. He also threatened her and pulled down her clothing.

Hogg was also placed under supervision and put on the sex offenders’ register for three years.

In sentencing Hogg, Judge Lord Lake noted rape “is one of the most serious crimes” and said the victim’s age, and the circumstances, were aggravating factors in the attack.

According to a report by the BBC, he said: “For the level of seriousness, I have to consider your liability and have regard to your age as a factor. This offence, if committed by an adult over 25, you attract a sentence of four or five years.

“I don’t consider that appropriate and don’t intend to send you to prison. You are a first offender with no previous history of prison; you are 21 and were 17 at the time. Prison does not lead me to believe this will contribute to your rehabilitation.”

New guidelines for sentencing under 25s were introduced in Scotland in January 2022 and make rehabilitation rather than punishment a primary focus. They also recommend an individual approach.

Donald Findlay KC, defending, told the court an appeal was planned.

Brindley, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime on Tuesday, also criticised the fact it took four years for the case to come to court.

Brindley 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.”

On the prospect of the sentence being overturned, she told the programme: “It is hard to imagine a case more deserving of that judgement of unduly lenient than the rape of a 13-year-old girl.”

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