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What happens after a guilty verdict

After a guilty verdict, the judge has to decide what punishment to give to the offender. This punishment is called a sentence.

The judge makes this decision after hearing all the evidence and taking account of any background information.

This includes things such as the offender's age, any medical issues and whether they already have a criminal record.

The judge can choose what sentence to give from a range of options. Sentences can be either:

  • custodial (going to prison)
  • non-custodial (happens outside of prison)

Your victim statement may be considered when the judge decides the sentence.

Types of sentences

Some of the main types of sentences which a judge can give include:

Absolute discharge

This means the judge does not think the offender should be punished. Reasons for this could be:

  • because of the circumstances of the crime
  • the offender's previous good character
  • if the crime was very minor
  • if the accused was very young, or very old


This is a warning given to the offender. Although there is no fine or imprisonment, the admonition is recorded on a criminal record.


The court may order the offender to pay money to the victim for loss or injury because of the crime. The accused pays the money to the court, which then sends it to the victim.

Driving disqualification

If an offender has committed a driving offence, they may be disqualified (banned) from driving.

In some cases the offender can ask the court to reduce their disqualification period. They must have good reasons for asking for this, and the court will consider information from the police about how the offender has behaved since they received their disqualification. Find out more about driving disqualifications on GOV.UK.

Drug treatment testing orders

This is for offenders who have serious drug misuse problems who might otherwise receive a prison sentence.


This is an order for the offender to pay money to the court.

Restriction of Liberty Order

This court order requires a person to remain in their home at times specified by the court.

Community Payback Order

This is an alternative to prison. It's a sentence which is carried out in the community and has 2 aims:

  • to make an offender give something back to the community
  • to help them change their behaviour and stop them committing more crimes in the future

The Community Payback Order is made up of different parts, such as having to carry out unpaid work, completing a programme of treatment for drug, alcohol, mental health or behaviour issues, or paying compensation to the victim of the crime.

If an offender breaks the conditions of a Community Payback Order they can be returned to court and may be fined or sent to prison.


The court decides the length of the prison sentence.

16 - 21 year olds are sent to a young offenders institution, rather than prison.

You can get more information about sentencing on the Scottish Sentencing Council's website.

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