Sean Hogg, 21, was found guilty of attacking a girl at Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian, Scotland, near Edinburgh, multiple times between March and June 2018. Court documents show that Hogg, from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, had threatened the girl when she was 17, grabbed her by the wrists and forced her to perform sexual acts, according to the BBC.
But Judge Lord Lake told the Glasgow High Court that while rape was “one of the most serious crimes”, Hogg’s age at the time of the crimes figured into the decision not to sentence him to prison. Noting that adults over the age of 25 would generally be sentenced to four or five years in prison, Lake ordered Hogg to complete 270 hours of unpaid community service.
“For the level of seriousness, I have to consider his responsibility and factor in his age,” the judge told Hogg, the BBC reported.
When Lake told Hogg what the prison sentence would be for adults over the age of 25, the judge added: “I don’t think it’s appropriate and I don’t intend to send you to prison.” Lake referenced Scotland’s sentencing guidelines, passed last year, for people under the age of 25. The guidelines favor rehabilitation over punishment.
“You are a first-time offender with no prior prison record — you are 21 years old and you were 17 at the time,” Lake said, according to the Telegraph newspaper. “Prison does not lead me to believe that this will contribute to his rehabilitation.”
The judge’s sentence of community service in lieu of prison has sparked criticism from the Scottish Conservative Party and critics who described the “worryingly lenient” sentence as a “utter insult” to the girl who was raped.
“This is an extremely serious case and we are surprised that the perpetrator has not received a prison sentence,” Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said in a statement to the LBC talk radio station. “Given the seriousness of this crime and the fact that he was tried in the High Court, we find this sentence worryingly lenient.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Crown Office, the country’s public prosecutor’s office service, declined to comment to The Washington Post. In a statement to local media, the office said: “As in all cases, the Crown will consider the judgment and consider whether it might be unduly lenient.”
A spokesperson for the law firm Optimum Advocates and Donald Findlay KC, the lawyer representing Hogg, told The Post they were not allowed to comment on the case. Findlay told the court Monday that the firm plans to appeal Hogg’s conviction.
In Britain, most people accused of rape go free. In the year ending March 2020, more than 55,000 rapes were reported to the police. Yet in that same period, 2,102 rape prosecutions resulted in only 1,439 convictions. In 2021, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament that he was “regretting the trauma” rape victims suffered as a result of “inadequacies” in the criminal justice system.
Most rapists in Britain walk free. The survivors describe what must change.
In January 2022, the Scottish Sentencing Council Announced new guidelines intended to “reduce recidivism among youth and thereby help increase public safety.”
“reflecting compelling scientific evidence On the development of cognitive maturity, the guideline says that a young person will generally have a lower level of maturity and a greater capacity for change and rehabilitation than an older person,” the council said in a press release. “For this reason, it establishes that rehabilitation must be a primary consideration when sentencing a youth.”
Hogg, who was recently found guilty by a jury, wept during his sentencing in Glasgow on Monday. While Lake noted that the victim’s age and vulnerabilities were “aggravating factors” in the case, the judge said he also had an obligation to consider Hogg’s age at the time of the violations.
In addition to community service, Hogg was also placed under supervision and placed on the sex offender registry for three years.
Critics of the ruling included Jamie Greene, a spokesman for Scottish Conservatives, who have opposed the sentencing guidelines.
“The lack of a prison sentence is a complete insult to the young teenage victim in this case,” Greene told the Telegraph.
There have been similar cases in the United States in recent years. In 2016, former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner served three months of a highly criticized six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. In November 2021, a New York man who pleaded guilty to rape and sexual assault for assaulting four teenage girls during parties at his parents’ house was sentenced to eight years probation after a judge concluded that the time after bars for the man “would be inappropriate.” .”
Karla Adam contributed to this report.