Back to top
News In Focus

Former top judges add weight to corroboration defence

7 January 2014

Two former Lords Justice General have added their voices to the senior legal figures who oppose the Scottish Government's plan to abolish the corroboration rule in criminal trials.

Lord Hamilton, who held the office immediately before the present Lord Justice General, Lord Gill, and his predecessor Lord Cullen, have each given broadcast interviews supporting the rule as a necessary safeguard against miscarriages of justice.

Scotland is unique is requiring a second source of evidence before a conviction can be returned, and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, along with the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, believes the rule is preventing deserving cases from coming to trial. But opponents, including most of the judiciary apart from Lord Justice Clerk Carloway, who recommended reform, believe there are insufficient safeguards if the rule were to go.

Lord Hamilton described the rule as an "essential element" of the Scottish system and claimed there was a "serious risk" that its abolition would increase the likelihood of miscarriages of justice.

Lord Cullen said the rule had been there for centuries as a safeguard against wrongful conviction, and while it was hard to prove that it provided such protection, his experience on the bench convinced him that it did.

A more limited exception to the rule could be introduced to deal with particular cases.

Similar comments have previously been made by Lord Hope, another former Lord Justice General, who recently retired as Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court. Lord Gill has also given evidence to the Scottish Parliament in support of the rule.

Have your say