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Lord Gill tells MSPs corroboration should not be abolished

20 November 2013

Scotland's most senior judge has told MSPs the concept of corroboration in the criminal justice system should not be abolished.

The comments by Lord Gill, the Lord President, giving evidence to Holyrood's Justice Committee which is examining the Criminal Justice 9scotland) Bill, echoed those of other senior legal figures, including Lord Hope.

Corroboration has been a requirement in Scots law for centuries. The Scottish government wants to abolish it, partly to improve the chances of increasing the conviction rate in cases of sexual crime and domestic abuse.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, who also gave evidence to the committee, said that in the past two years more than 2,800 cases of domestic abuse had been unable to proceed to court because of a lack of admissible evidence.

However, Lord Gill insisted that corroboration was a hallmark of Scottish law which should remain.

He said it was "always wise" to review the rules of the law, but he believed the proposed change to corroboration had not been thought through, and if abolished its consequences could be "very, very adverse".

Lord Gill said all but one of the country's judges were opposed to it being abolished. He added: "Where there is such a degree of opposition, it should give us pause for thought."

Asked whether the corroboration provisions should be taken out of the bill and examined separately, he replied that that would be a sensible way to proceed and it could be done quite quickly.

Commenting on Lord Gill's remarks, Peter Lockhart, a member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Criminal Law Committee said: “We fully support Lord Gill’s recommendation that corroboration should be taken out of the bill and looked at separately.

“The Scottish solicitors’ profession is deeply concerned about proposals to remove the need for corroboration in criminal trials. It is an integral part of the Scottish criminal justice system; the degree of opposition to this proposal should make MSPs stop and think."

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