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THE PARITY PRINCIPLE OF SENTENCING

Note of Appeal Against Sentence by Dillin Armstrong Against Her Majesty’s Advocate [2021] ScotHC HCJAC_34, June 23, 2021, at paragraph 24:

The principle of comparative justice is an important one. Co-accused persons who have been convicted of the same, or a similar, offence, ought to attract substantially the same sentences (Thomas v HM Advocate [2014] HCJAC 66, LJC (Carloway), delivering the opinion of the court, at para [14]). If it were otherwise, the sentences, or at least one of them, will be perceived to be unfair. The severity of, or leniency in, a particular sentence on one co-accused must be a factor to be taken into account in sentencing the other co-accused. Any significant difference in sentence ought to be capable of rational explanation (Lambert v Tudhope 1982 SCCR 144 LJC (Wheatley) at 146). That may relate to the backgrounds of the accused, notably their previous convictions (Skilling v McLeod 1987 SCCR 245 LJC (Ross), delivering the opinion of the court, at 248). It may be that the roles played by each co-accused were radically different, where the conviction is based on art and part guilt (Cosgrove v HM Advocate 2008 JC 102, Lord Macfadyen, delivering the opinion of the court, at para [9]; although cf Simpkins v HM Advocate 1985 SCCR 30, LJG (Emslie) at 35). It may also be that one or more of the co-accused may be significantly younger than the others. The exercise involves scrutinising all of the sentences in order to see that the comparison principle has been fully applied.