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Big Wullie

Law Society Warnings About Corroboration

http://www.firmmagazine.com/law-s...isdictions-replace-corroboration/

Law Society warns against ‘borrowing safeguards’ from other jurisdictions to replace corroboration

December 15, 2014 4:17 pm by: Editor

The Law Society has warned against borrowing safeguards from other jurisdictions to replace the requirement for corroboration if it is to be abolished.

In its response to the Bonomy Review’s post-corroboration safeguards consultation, the Law Society praised the work done by Lord Bonomy’s reference group and academic expert group, but maintained that a full review of the law of corroboration would have been a better route to examine how the requirement for corroboration interconnects with all other aspects of the criminal justice system.

Colin Dunipace, a member of the Law Society’s Council and its criminal law committee, said: “We are keen to participate in the development of a criminal justice system in Scotland which is properly balanced and which gives due weight to the interests of those facing criminal charges, to the victims of crime and to wider society.

“Lord Bonomy and those involved in the review groups have produced a very thorough piece of work. However the requirement for corroboration is a cornerstone of Scotland’s criminal justice procedure and to try to replace it without full consideration of potential knock on effects could have serious consequences. The post-corroboration safeguards considered in the review would, if implemented, result in widespread change to our criminal justice system, far removed from what we have at present and we think more time is needed for further scrutiny.

“The introduction of any new safeguards would have to ensure that the integrity of Scots criminal law is not compromised, and we cannot simply borrow safeguards – such as a statutory code of practice to govern police evidence gathering or powers of judges to remove a case from a jury – from other jurisdictions without proper regard as to how the Scottish system has developed and currently operates.”

In its Bonomy Review consultation response, the Law Society said that dock identification of people accused of a crime should not be admissible in the majority of cases, but there should be proper pre-trial identification procedures .It also believes that confession evidence and hearsay evidence, in so far as it can be admitted, should always be corroborated.

The Law Society would support reducing juries from 15 to 12 people, adding that this could bring significant savings to the public purse and help reduce pressure on the number of people required to sit on criminal trial juries. It also supports a move away from a simple majority to find a guilty verdict and that if a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, 10 of 12 votes should be required for a verdict of guilty, with anything short of this resulting in an acquittal.

Dunipace said: “The requirement for corroborated evidence, a simple majority jury and the three verdicts are so heavily interlinked that if the requirement for corroboration is removed, it will be  essential that  the size of majorities in our juries and what it means for our three-verdict system are also fully considered. We look forward to reading Lord Bonomy’s report when it comes out in spring next year.”

To read the Law Society’s full response to the Post-corroboration Safeguards Review please see the website.
Iain McKie

Quote:
CONTROVERSIAL plans to scrap the centuries-old principle of corroboration in criminal trials have been set aside following a Scottish Government U-turn.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said he would remove the provision from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/scot...-to-scrap-corroboration-1-3749791
Iain McKie

Quote:
ATTEMPTS to force through legislation scrapping a centuries-old legal safeguard should “ring alarm bells” about democracy in Scotland, a former solicitor general has warned.

Lord McCluskey, who served as a judge in the High Court for 20 years, claimed “serious misgivings” within the SNP about removing corroboration were silenced in the run-up to last year’s independence ­referendum.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/poli...arm-for-scots-democracy-1-3751806
Big Wullie

http://www.scotsman.com/news/poli...arm-for-scots-democracy-1-3751806


SNP justice shambles ‘alarm for Scots democracy’
Lord McCluskey says some SNP figures had 'serious misgivings' about taking corroboration off the books. Picture: Mike Day
Lord McCluskey says some SNP figures had 'serious misgivings' about taking corroboration off the books. Picture: Mike Day

CHRIS MARSHALL
00:46Thursday 23 April 2015

ATTEMPTS to force through legislation scrapping a centuries-old legal safeguard should “ring alarm bells” about democracy in Scotland, a former solicitor general has warned.

Lord McCluskey, who served as a judge in the High Court for 20 years, claimed “serious misgivings” within the SNP about removing corroboration were silenced in the run-up to last year’s independence ­referendum.



   If corroboration continues to be heartache it’s been this far, SNP will allow it to slide.”
   Graeme Pearson

Justice secretary Michael Matheson announced earlier this week that a provision to scrap corroboration would be removed from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament.

Considered a cornerstone of the Scottish legal system, corroboration is the principle which requires that two independent pieces of evidence be produced for a case to come to court.

Moves to scrap corroboration were started by previous justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who believed it would help conviction rates in rape cases.

Writing in The Scotsman today, Lord McCluskey welcomed the reversal of what he called the “ill-thought-out” ­decision to abolish corroboration.

He said: “The way in which the SNP government handled this whole matter rings alarm bells for anyone concerned about democracy in Scotland.

“The [previous] justice secretary [Kenny MacAskill] railroaded through parliament a major change in law.

“There was obviously a case for a thoughtful re-examination of its weaknesses, taking account of the experience of those who operated the rule. Those with daily experience had no axe to grind – judges are concerned to seek ­justice in an imperfect human situation.

“However, the justice secretary decided to listen only to those with a necessarily partial view: the police, prosecutors and women with criticisms of how rape is handled, but who were not best qualified to assess remedies.”

Lord McCluskey said he was aware of those in the SNP who had “serious misgivings” about the policy, but said that in the run-up to last year’s referendum, “no dissent was tolerated”.

Mr Matheson’s move to further delay the decision on corroboration followed publication of a report by Lord Bonomy on legal safeguards that would be needed in its place.

Lord Bonomy’s report made a series of recommendations, including a requirement that ­police video all interviews with suspects and the scrapping of the practice of dock identification – when the accused is identified as the perpetrator in court.

He also recommended that corroboration be kept for evidence related to a confession or hearsay – an account given by a ­witness about a statement made by another person.

The justice secretary said the proposals were “substantial and complex” and would have a considerable impact on the legal system.

In a newspaper article yesterday, Mr MacAskill said it was those who “mopped up the blood and wiped away the tears” who were in favour of corroboration’s removal, while many in the legal profession had a “vested interest” in opposing the move. He said corroboration continued to “deny justice to victims of crime, particularly women and children suffering abuse behind closed doors”.

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “Clearly it is good that the provision to abolish corroboration has been removed from the Criminal Justice Bill. However, the point raised by Lord McCluskey about the abuse of parliamentary democracy by the then first minister and ­majority SNP government is one which should send a wake-up call to all those who value freedom of speech and opinion.

“It also highlights the dangerous and unacceptable situation that Scotland faces with an SNP majority in a parliament with no revising chamber to ensure the necessary checks and balances are made to maintain the integrity of parliament.”

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, a former senior police ­officer, added: “There’s some truth in Lord McCluskey’s view.

“Mr ­MacAskill was, to some extent, out on his own, but it was SNP discipline which managed it through parliament, despite the reservations that were ­expressed. He was goaded along by a number of others. He was supported by the Lord Advocate and the chief constable who were quite happy to come forward, despite there not being a lot of evidence to support their view.

“The fact that Michael Matheson has kicked it into the long grass means I would not be surprised to see it disappear.

“If corroboration continues to be the heartache it’s been this far, they will allow it to slide.”

The government’s U-turn was welcomed by the legal fraternity, with the Faculty of Advocates warning that failure to properly implement the safeguards outlined by Lord Bonomy would leave Scots law at risk of miscarriages of justice.

The Scottish Criminal Bar Association said the removal of corroboration remained a “very dangerous proposal”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government has listened to the range of views on the corroboration reform.

“As the cabinet secretary for justice announced [on Tuesday], given the complexity of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations, and the lack of consensus at this time on the abolition of the corroboration requirement, the government will no longer proceed with the reform in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

“We will now work with stakeholders during the remainder of the current Parliamentary session to develop and seek consensus on a package of proposals for future reform.”

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