THE online petition asking for a review of the four-year jail sentence given to a teenager for killing Shaun Woodburn in Leith has notched up nearly 50,000 signatures in just two days.

It is one of the strongest and swiftest public responses to a Scottish justice issue ever seen on the website

Launched by Woodburn’s father, Kevin, in protest against the four-year sentence handed down by Lady Stacey earlier in the week, the petition asks First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC to “appeal the sentences”.

However, only the Lord Advocate can make such a decision, as government ministers cannot intervene in the work of the courts. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has already said that “as with all cases, the Crown will consider the sentence and give consideration to whether it might be unduly lenient.”

The sentence on the 30-year-old father of one’s killer may not be extended after all, however. The Crown has the right to appeal against “unduly lenient” sentences, but the Appeal Court sets a high test for a Crown appeal against a sentence to have any chance of success.

Such appeals have become rarer in recent years and the Crown Office has been stung by several unsuccessful appeals against sentences over the years.

The test of whether the sentence can be seen as unduly lenient is whether the sentence is outwith the range of sentences Lady Stacey could reasonably have imposed for the offence, taking account of all relevant factors.

A legal expert told The National that four years for culpable homicide was “on the borderline” of being unduly lenient.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty at the High Court in Dunfermline after the incident that led to Woodburn’s death outside Gladstone’s Public House in Leith on Hogmanay.

He was also convicted of a number of other assaults during a campaign of violence against New Year’s Eve revellers throughout Edinburgh.

His friend Mohammed Zakariyah pleaded guilty to two assaults and a breach of the peace and was ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In line with the independence of the courts from government, ministers do not comment on, nor have the powers to intervene in, individual criminal cases where sentencing decisions are a matter for the court.

“The impact of the loss of a loved one is devastating and our sympathies go out to the family and friends of Shaun.”