Law Society of Scotland President, Ken Dalling, has responded to Scotland’s Justice Secretary Keith Brown’s comments today, Wednesday, 21 July, on reforming the criminal justice system.
“We would support change that brought meaningful improvement for complainers and witnesses involved in sexual offence cases providing the rights of an accused person are preserved.
“It will be essential to maintain fundamental principles in any plans to reform the criminal justice system – to recognise the presumption of innocence, maintain the rights of all those involved, and minimise the risk of a miscarriage of justice. In our view juries can be trusted to return the correct outcome based on the evidence presented and great care should be taken in changing a system on the basis that juries have been getting things wrong.
“Solicitors work with those accused, but also with those who are complainers and witnesses. Providing greater access to legal advice for complainers would help to ensure they can get the right legal advice and support in bringing forward cases which are, by their very nature, highly sensitive and distressing.
“It will be essential to consider the full implications of any future proposals for reforming the criminal justice system. The not proven verdict, which has been the subject of much debate, is a long-standing part of the justice system and great care will be needed in considering any proposals for its removal.
“We need to be sure that any reforms would work in practice and not adversely impact on a fair and transparent system that upholds the rule of law and operates in the interests of justice.”