RAPE Crisis Scotland has criticised the decision to hand a community sentence to a man found guilty of raping a 13-year-old schoolgirl.

Sean Hogg, now 21, attacked the girl in Dalkeith Country Park, Midlothian, on various occasions in 2018.

Sentencing him yesterday, Judge Lord Lake told the man he was escaping jail because of his age.

New guidelines were introduced in January last year, which make rehabilitation rather than punishment a primary consideration when sentencing under 25s. 

At the time, the Scottish Sentencing Council said the new rules were based on "compelling scientific evidence on the development of cognitive maturity."

They said someone under the age of 25 would "generally have a lower level of maturity, and a greater capacity for change and rehabilitation, than an older person."

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Sandy Brindley, the Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said the decision to hand Hogg a 270-hour community sentence was “worryingly lenient.” 

She said the organisation was “concerned about the message this case sends about how seriously the Scottish justice system takes the crime of rape.”

As well as being ordered to carry out unpaid work, Hogg was put under supervision and placed on the sex offenders' register for three years.

At his sentencing, Lord Lake said had Hogg been just four years older he would have been sentenced to four or five years. 

He said: “Rape is one of the most serious crimes and that is why it is tried at the High Court.

“Looking at the circumstances, her age and vulnerabilities are aggravating factors. 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, would 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.'

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Ms Brindley 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.

“The Rape Crisis Scotland helpline is open every night from 5pm to midnight on 08088 010302.”

She added: “We are very concerned about the message this case sends about how seriously the Scottish justice system takes the crime of rape.”

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Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday morning, Tommy Ross KC said it was the first time he’d heard of anyone found guilty of rape avoiding prison. 

"The guideline says that in the case of a young person then rehabilitation is a primary consideration. And I would imagine that was at the forefront of the judge's mind.

"I should say that many young people are sentenced. And most young people who are sentenced for rape go to prison. So this is quite an unusual sentence.”

“I've been working in the High Court now for around for 20 odd years, I've never seen anybody avoid prison for rape until yesterday," he added.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene MSP, 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.

“While this dangerous sex offender committed the offence when he was 17, the policies agreed to by SNP ministers mean that under 25 year-olds are now routinely wrapped in cotton wool.

“The needs of a criminal have shamefully been put above those of a victim in the SNP’s justice system. This young girl will be scarred for life by this horrendous attack.

“Her and her family now have to suffer the indignity of this criminal only been handed down a community payback order- many of which are often written off by this SNP government.

“It is time victims are always put first which is why I’ve brought forward my Victims Law to Parliament to ensure that is always the case.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Decisions on sentencing in individual cases are taken by the independent court within the legal framework where they consider all the facts and circumstances, and the Scottish Government does not comment on nor intervene in individual cases.

“Sentencing guidelines are the responsibility of the independent Sentencing Council, the establishment of which was backed by all parties in parliament.”

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

A spokesperson for the Crown Office said: "As with all cases, the Crown will consider the sentence and give consideration to whether it might be unduly lenient."