Not too late to reconsider stance on corroboration says Law Society
The Law Society of Scotland has invited groups for and against abolishing the requirement for corroboration to discuss the issue in full and seek solutions which will avert an increased risk of miscarriages of justice.
The Law Society has called for a review of the law surrounding corroboration and has stated that to drop the requirement for corroboration without introducing alternative safeguards will result in the risk of increased miscarriages of justice and threatens the reputation of Scotland's criminal justice system.
Following an evidence session before the Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament today, Tuesday 26 November, Raymond McMenamin, from the Law Society's Criminal Law Committee, said: "The need for corroboration has been an essential component of Scotland's justice system for centuries. That alone is no reason to keep it, however, the consequences of the current proposals for its abolition could be hugely damaging.
"It is not too late to reconsider the proposals in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and we are calling for a further review of corroboration to examine fully if it has a place in today's justice system. While we view corroboration as an essential safeguard in the present system, we want to discuss the wider issues which need to be addressed before it can be removed in total or retained in limited circumstances as in other jurisdictions.
"Nobody doubts that there are improvements that can and should be made to our criminal justice system but this Bill considers corroboration in isolation which means we are in danger of moving to a system of justice in which safeguards against wrongful conviction will be minimal, even primitive.
"The wholesale abolition of such an important safeguard is far too simplistic an approach when we have no clear idea of the long term consequences and there has been no proper research into viable alternatives. The sole proposal to increase slightly the required majority for a jury for a guilty verdict appears to have been plucked out the air and will only affect jury trials - there is nothing to replace it in summary cases heard and decided by a sheriff or justice of the peace and which comprise the vast majority of Scottish criminal trials.
"Introducing a system which could result in convictions on a single source of evidence will lead to a greater risk of miscarriages of justice. That, in turn, will lead to disastrous consequences for individuals and damage the reputation of Scotland's justice system as a whole."
The Law Society has invited those involved in the debate, including organisations such as the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and Victim Support Scotland as well as the Faculty of Advocates to discuss current proposals on corroboration in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill early in 2014.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884
26 November 2013