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Society argues against "interests of justice" change

19 November 2013

Proposals to change the basis on which a criminal conviction may be quashed following a miscarriage of justice were criticised by the Law Society of Scotland before the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee today.

MSPs were hearing evidence on provisions in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill which would permit the High Court to refuse to quash a conviction or sentence where a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, following a reference by the Scotish Criminal Cases Review Commission, on the basis that it is not in the “interests of justice to do so”.

Ministers say this would improve on the current situation, whereby the High Court can refuse to consider a reference by the Commission if it deems that it is not in the “interests of justice”. However, the Society argues that the change is unlikely to make any real improvement.

Speaking after giving evidence, Murray Macara QC, from the Law Society's Criminal Law Committee, commented: “We do not believe that it can ever be in the ‘interests of justice’ for the High Court to allow a conviction based on a miscarriage of justice to stand.

“Such an approach could undermine the credibility of the court and confidence in the Scottish criminal justice system, in which the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission plays a respected and important role."

Mr Macara described the move as "especially worrying", given the further proposal to remove the requirement for corroboration, as to do so without sufficient safeguards would bring an increased risk of miscarriages of justice.

“The bill could not only lead to greater instances of miscarriages of justice but also make those convictions harder to quash", he said.

“It could be disastrous for those wrongly convicted under the Scottish criminal justice system.”

The committee will hear evidence on the corroboration proposal next Tuesday (26 November).

 

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