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Evidence change "about victims", says MacAskill

22 October 2012

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has hinted that the Scottish Government is likely to proceed with its plans to abolish the corroboration rule in Scots law, despite the opposition of many in the legal profession.

In his speech to the SNP conference at the weekend, Mr MacAskill acknowledged the opposition to the change, which was recommended in Lord Carloway's review of criminal evidence and procedure published late last year but has recently been opposed in submissions by the other Scottish judges, the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland, as well as local bar associations.

The Scottish Police Federation has also come out against the move, although it is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

Opponents of abolition fear that it would lead to an increased risk of miscarriages of justice, and have called for a wider review that would also look for example at changing the rule that eight out of 15 votes on a jury are enough for conviction.

Supporters of the proposal include organisations supporting victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence, the offences that can be the most difficult to prove when supporting evidence is required.

Mr MacAskill said it was "hardly unprecedented for there to be a divide in legal opinions amongst learned friends". He said he would give "significant weight" to opposing opinions, but the issue was not just about the legal profession or law enforcement agencies. "It's also about those who are victims of crime – especially women who have suffered injustice in private and behind closed doors", he stated.

An announcement is expected soon on how ministers intend to proceed in the light of responses to a consultation that closed earlier this month on Lord Carloway's proposals, of which abolishing the corroboration rule is the most controversial aspect.

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William Munro

Tuesday October 23, 2012, 10:46

If we are to reform corroboration and safeguard miscarriage of justice in sexual offences – shouldn’t we reform that particular practice of sexual offence rather than the whole system - furthermore, what are we to put in place if we remove corroboration to safeguard miscarriage of justice and setting a particular standard for the police investigation, procurator fiscal and defence solicitors.