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Corroboration : A Silver Lining
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david



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:27 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

SNP's plans to scrap corroboration face 'knife edge' vote

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/u...oration-face-knife-edge-vote.html

Opposition parties predict close vote on an amendment that would block Kenny MacAskill's plans to scrap the historic safeguard of Scots law.



The SNP’s controversial plan to abolish a historic safeguard in Scotland’s justice system was resting on a knife edge last night after Holyrood’s opposition parties agreed a secret strategy to block it.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats will today make a joint effort to save the centuries-old rule of corroboration from being scrapped.

They have agreed an amendment that would remove the abolition of corroboration from a Scottish Government criminal justice bill. If accepted by Tricia Marwick, the presiding officer, it will be voted on tomorrow afternoon when the legislation is considered by MSPs.

Holyrood’s two Green MSPs confirmed they will back the amendment and the opposition was also confident of winning the support of two independent MSPs, despite them being former SNP members.

The architects of the cross-party deal last night said they expected the result to be close. If they are correct, it would be the first time since the SNP won a majority in the 2011 election that Alex Salmond’s administration has been in danger of losing a Scottish Parliament vote. However, Christine Grahame, the SNP convener of Holyrood’s justice committee, and one of the Scottish Government’s most vocal critics over the change, is only expected to abstain.

Other Nationalist back benchers are understood to privately oppose abolishing corroboration but fear the wrath of Alex Salmond and the party’s whips if they rebelled.

Corroboration requires at least two pieces of evidence for a criminal conviction to succeed but has been blamed for low conviction rates in rape and domestic violence cases, where it is more likely to be one person's word against another's.

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP Justice Minister, has insisted the rule has “failed Scotland” but the country’s legal establishment has made clear its strong support for it and warned its abolition could lead to miscarriages of justice.

Mr MacAskill yesterday attempted to shore up support for the change by announcing the membership of a group that will consider what other safeguards could be introduced to replace corroboration.

But Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said it was ridiculous that its recommendations would be published only after the legislation had been passed.

He said corroboration should be removed altogether from the bill pending a full inquiry into whether it should be abolished and, if so, what should replace it.
All the changes should be considered as a whole and introduced in separate legislation, he argued.

“If Mr MacAskill had thought about it, he would have had a much more reasoned proposal that looked at all the implications arising from the scrapping of such an established principle,” Mr Pearson said.
“The problem now is that his approach seems to be that to save political face. The reasoned amendment invites him to take corroboration out of the current bill.”

The amendment would win 62 votes if it garnered the support of all Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and Green MSPs along with two of the three independents. Margo MacDonald, the third, is recuperating from illness and unlikely to vote.

Although Ms Grahame also opposes abolishing corroboration, it is understood she wants to stay neutral as the justice committee she chairs is divided on the issue.

If all the remaining Nationalists fall into line, the Scottish Government would have 64 votes.

However, Mr MacAskill suffered an embarrassing setback earlier this month when a majority of the committee said it was “not convinced” corroboration should be abolished.

The Law Society of Scotland backed the inquiry’s conclusion and recommended the proposal be removed from the Bill.

Mr MacAskill pledged to press ahead with the change but attempted to placate the committee by announcing that Lord Bonomy, a former High Court judge, would lead a group examining what additional safeguards could be introduced.

Although he refused to back down on abolishing corroboration, he promised to delay the move until the group had reported back.

The Justice Minister yesterday announced the group’s membership would include a High Court judge, sheriffs, lawyers, a senior police officer and a victims’ support group.

They included Lady Dorrian, Sheriff Michael O'Grady QC, Sheriff Norman McFadyen, Murray Macara QC, Murdo MacLeod QC and advocate Jane Farquharson.

Mr MacAskill said the justice committee’s opposition was based on “genuine concern” but added: “The removal of corroboration is long overdue.
“I am confident that the review by Lord Bonomy and his team will answer those concerns by carrying out a robust and thorough exploration of any additional safeguards which may be required once the corroboration requirement is abolished.”
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Iain McKie



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Controversial plans to get rid of the need for evidence in Scottish criminal trials to come from two sources are facing a tight vote in parliament.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the reqiurement for corroboration meant many victims could be denied justice.

The reform has been backed by police and prosecutors, but there is fierce opposition from the legal profession.

MSPs will vote on the change for the first time, but at least one SNP member is likely to abstain.

The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens want the government to ditch the proposals while a full review of their impact is carried out.....................

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26353105
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david



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An astonishing performance from McAskill.


RIP Scottish Justice.
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Big Wullie



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

Christine Grahame, a qualified solicitor and convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, said Mr MacAskill had “very seriously misjudged” the issue and told The Telegraph that she and other SNP backbenchers MSPs had been shocked by Mr MacAskill’s rhetoric in the bad tempered exchanges.


Ms Grahame's decision to speak out publicly against the conduct of an SNP cabinet minister is unprecedented, with Alex Salmond’s government and party normally maintaining an iron-like discipline and avoiding all public dissent.


MacAskill is such an arrogant obnoxious man the likes of which I have never witnessed ever, in my entire life.

Be interesting to see how many SNP MSP'S voted against the motion and why.

However I suspect the SNP hierarchy to have ruled them with an iron fist telling them they would be cast out if they dared vote against the removal of Corroboration.

Like Graham Pearson said I fail to accept something we do not yet have all the answers to.

Appointing Lord Bonomy at the last minute failed miserably to address all the issues and safeguards that will be required to be implemented and for this reason I think all SNP's that voted for this without all the proper answers really need to search their souls.

We could have got a better and more fairer debate in the likes of Cuba I fear.
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Big Wullie



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look forward to all the appeals that will follow until all the proper safeguards they talk about are implemented.
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Big Wullie



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:37 pm    Post subject: Brian Wilson: A sorry excuse for political debate Reply with quote

A great article which about sums up all the SNP to a T.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/bria...te-1-3324449#.UxEK-g0JIy8.twitter

Brian Wilson: A sorry excuse for political debate.

With no reasoned answers to reasonable questions, the SNP has resorted to shouting down the opposition, writes Brian Wilson


Nicola Sturgeon jeers at the SNP's Holyrood rivals. Picture: Ian Rutherford

I watched the televised debacle involving Nicola Sturgeon and Johann Lamont on STV this week with a transfixed horror at the calibre of what was unfolding. But I also felt a real anger that this is the level to which Scottish political debate has been dragged down at this of all times.

We used to pride ourselves in being rather good at the cut and thrust of dignified, articulate debate. Arguments were won through persuasion. Politicians were expected to maintain certain standards of courtesy, no matter how passionately they prosecuted their case.

Now, after decades of obsessing about the constitution, Scottish political discourse is represented by a shouting match in which the primary aim of our Deputy First Minister is to prevent her opponents being heard. It was awful, and I am reluctant to believe that anyone other than her blindest disciples, tweets at the ready, was impressed.

I assume Johann Lamont, having watched the previous episodes, concluded that the only tactic was to stand her ground and not be silenced. She did that as well as anyone could. The problem is that when competing with crass boorishness, it is difficult not to end up tarred with the same brush whether merited or not.

As the week wore on, it dawned on me that the cacophony in Cowcaddens did have a usefulness, however deeply concealed. It should become the metaphor for the way the whole contest is moving – with every inconvenient argument against independence to be gabbled into submission while the Nationalists’ appeal is increasingly pitched at the vulgar end of the populist market, where glibness might be confused with reason.

Assertion is all. The assumptions about the lengths the world would go to in order to accommodate Scotland’s preferred interests are moving into the realms of farce. Nobody else, it seems, has any entitlement to act in what they perceive to be their own best interests. The case for independence is predicated on them all behaving in the way the Scottish Nationalists have decided they should.

According to the First Minister’s latest diktat, not only is the UK (continuing) to grant the currency union he demands, but it must also deny its own people the right to express an opinion through a referendum. This involves both an arrogant presumption about a matter in which he would have no say and also complete contempt for the realpolitik which would have been created.

In the event of a Yes vote, a currency union with departed Scotland would be about as popular with English and Welsh voters as, let’s say, a bid to join the eurozone. If further discouragement was required, another £8.2 billion in losses for RBS can scarcely encourage a consensus that Scottish banks would never again need bailing out, as required by currency union. The cry would inevitably go up for a referendum, with the vast majority of UK (continuing) voters demanding one.

So Mr Salmond’s Plan A depends not only on Messrs Osborne, Balls and Alexander reneging collectively on what they have said – when rational evidence suggests they will do no such thing – but also on them all agreeing to deny their own people a say in the matter, even if there was an overwhelming demand for one. Why on earth would they do that? Why would any UK (continuing) party risk political suicide, just because Alex Salmond said they were obliged to do so?

As has been confirmed this week, the currency question carries with it a vast range of implications. Tens of thousands of jobs and the security of millions of pensions depend upon a satisfactory answer being provided. One analyst spoke of “generational implications” of going ahead without certainty on a currency union. Yet all that is on offer is an increasingly threadbare unilateral insistence about how obliging the United Kingdom (continuing) and its political leaders would become, on the day after independence.

In support of that crumbling edifice of unreality, Mr Salmond blusters, Ms Sturgeon interrupts and disciples tweet. Their objective is to maintain a confusion of claim and counter-claim in which assertion and evidence become indistinguishable, while grievance is assiduously nurtured. What right has anyone to “come up here” or “talk Scotland down” or “bully” or otherwise prick these over-inflated balloons of hot air and self-regard?

As long as the other participants in this dodgy dialogue were politicians of non-Nationalist persuasions, it just might have been possible to get away with the bluster. But the Standard Life intervention is of a different order. Nobody beyond the loopier fringes of Nationalism claims they are part of some grand conspiracy or can dispute the obligation to state their concerns to the millions who have invested with them. The same will be true of many other employers.

But even in the face of Standard Life’s statement, which he must have foreseen for months if not years, Mr Salmond had nothing better to offer than the discredited Plan A. Standard Life (and, by association, every other financial institution in Scotland) did not have to worry, he insisted, because he, Mr Salmond, was right about “wanting” a currency union. Even small children understand that “wanting” something which is not within one’s powers to obtain adds up to nothing at all.

The truth, which Mr Salmond cannot afford to acknowledge, is that Standard Life is a great Scottish success story because we have been part of a political and currency union for all of its 189 years – not in spite of it. That is why it is happily headquartered in Edinburgh, providing 5,000 high-quality Scottish jobs, while 90 per cent of its business is in England. With the status quo, that makes complete sense. Divide our small island into separate states, and it makes none at all.

Amidst the plethora of opinion polls, the most interesting of the week showed support for independence in the generally prosperous north-east of Scotland at just 17 per cent. I doubt this weekend if they could muster even that figure among Standard Life employees and their families. Contrary to Nationalist caricature, the great majority of people in Scotland enjoy degrees of prosperity and security which they are not going to gamble on the basis of unproven assertions.

And if the offer to the rest is a higher degree of social justice, then that too has to be demonstrated rather than asserted. Maybe the next debate should be about what Nationalism has actually delivered to the poorest and weakest people and communities in Scotland, as opposed to what it is now promising.
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david



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wullie,

I wonder if the legal establishment will protest against this Justice Minister and SNP.

They made a stand with legal aid cuts and I believe these recent actions by McAskill and the SNP are even more concerning.


Amateur politicians preliminary voting on the abolition of corroboration without knowledge of the imperative safeguards is scandalous.

They are a laughing stock.
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Big Wullie



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.scotsman.com/news/tiff...nnocent-have-rights-too-1-3324463

There is little justice in ending corroboration. In fact, the accused could end up paying the price of an unfair legal system, writes Tiffany Jenkins


IF WE took recent developments at face value, it would appear that the voice of the victim is finally being heard. Giving Victims a Voice is the title of the first report of Operation Yewtree, set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations, and currently rumbling on.

Closer to home, the Victim and Witnesses Act, passed in Scotland last year, means for victims, in the words of justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, “greater protection to their rights” and “ultimately, gives victims and witnesses confidence that their voices will be heard”.

The Victim and Witnesses Act is a move towards a system of restorative justice and makes it easier for victims to testify: criminals have to pay into a fund to support victims of crime, victims of sexual assault are able choose the gender of their interviewer, and they have the right to use measures such as screens in court and a CCTV link when giving evidence.

This week, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, narrowly passed through the stage-one vote in the Scottish Parliament. The bill, in MacAskill’s words, again, “is about bringing fairness to those who fall victim of criminal acts, including greater access to justice for victims by ensuring cases can go forward based on the overall quality of evidence”.

Among other things, it will mean the ending of the requirement for corroboration – the need for evidence in Scottish criminal trials to come from two sources to bring a criminal case to court. For centuries the accused could not be taken to court on the word of just one person with no supporting evidence. Now, it looks like this safeguard will be scrapped.

Another victory, supporters of the bill claim, for victims.

But the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill is controversial. MacAskill had to rely on the SNP’s majority to get it through. After a stormy debate, it was approved in principle by only 64 votes to five, with 57 abstentions. That’s hardly a resounding success. And there are many important critics. Senior legal professionals and MSPs are lined up against the removal of corroboration.

Are the proponents of the bill right, when they accuse those who voted against it of “selling out victims of crime”? No, they are wrong. It is critics of this bill whose voices should now be heard.

When powerful politicians tell you they are changing ancient rules of law in the name of the victims, we have to interrogate their case. I don’t doubt the motivations of those that include the Scottish Government, the Crown Office, Police Scotland and campaign groups – it’s just that good intentions don’t always mean justice.

The problem with removing corroboration, as pointed out by the Law Society of Scotland, is that for any conviction to be safe it needs to be based on more than the testimony of the complainant alone. It has to be more than one person’s word against another. It should not simply be a case of he or she did this to me, now put them on trial because I said so.

Getting more cases to court, making it easier to do so, is not necessarily a good thing. Court is no picnic. It’s not there to make people feel better. It is difficult for everyone, and rightly so – the stakes are incredibly high: a person’s liberty, as well as the reputation of the accuser. The accuser and the accused are placed under tremendous strain, as they should be. The case has to stand up. It has to be tested. If a crime has been committed, it is relived in some form. That many cases are not solid enough to go to court is frustrating and upsetting, I understand that, but it is vital to make sure that they are – there has to be sufficient evidence.

For all the talk of victims, we do not know for certain that the person bringing the charge is a victim. At the early stages of the process, the victim is a complainant. They may turn out be a victim, but these facts have to be established, and with rigour. This isn’t to deliberately give complainants a really hard time or to go easy on the accused, to be weak on crime, it is to ensure that a crime has been committed and to work out who has committed it. A legal system that refrains from testing witness credibility and corroborating their claims has not done this.

Currently there is huge political pressure to increase the convictions for rape. Of course the police want to abolish corroboration. The chance of getting such cases to court and maybe even a conviction will be improved, making them look more active in this cause. But the police are as not as reliable as we would like them to be. Remember Plebgate, Hillsborough or the Birmingham Six?

Despite the rhetoric of placing the victim at the centre of the justice system, moves in this direction usually end up empowering the state against the people. Most changes to the law in the name of the victim make it easier for the state to put people on trial and possibly to convict them. But the power to put people on the stand and to deprive them of their freedom must come with checks and balances.

The Lord Bonomy review group has been set up to review the need for additional safeguards and changes to law and practice if corroboration is removed. It is not reassuring that this bill is already acknowledged to warrant safeguards. That the bill is going through Holyrood before the group has published their review throws up questions about how seriously their recommendations will be taken.

The desire to help victims of rape is a cause with which I sympathise, but it is spiralling out of control. In the name of victims rights’, rights that apply to everyone are about to be lost, putting innocent people at risk – that could mean you, it could mean me; not some anonymous villain who should be tried, charged and banged up. Taking a case to court should happen only where there is a balance of proof that a crime has been committed and that the named person has committed it.

Removing corroboration removes that proof. Corroboration should remain.

I rest my case.
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Big Wullie



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.scotsman.com/news/poli...g-of-corroboration-rule-1-3325074

Carmichael attacks scrapping of corroboration rule

SCOTTISH Secretary Alistair Carmichael has warned that the controversial abolition of corroboration in criminal ­trials could lead to a sharp ­increase in miscarriages of ­justice and tarnish Scotland’s legal system.


In a rare intervention in Scotland’s devolved criminal justice system, the cabinet minister warned that high-profile cases of people being wrongly convicted in English courts – such as the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four – could be repeated north of the Border.

Carmichael – himself a former prosecutor – issued the warning after MSPs narrowly voted to get rid of the need for evidence from two sources in Scottish criminal trials.

The Liberal Democrat minister also accused SNP ministers of the “excesses” of New Labour in power as he claimed the Nationalist government was refusing to listen to critics.

Carmichael suggested the SNP’s use of its majority at Holy­rood to force through the abolition of corroboration could also lead to the end of civil liberties such as the right of suspects to remain silent.

He said: “The question is that if you abolish corroboration and are still not getting convictions in cases of rape and sexual assault, what next? Do you end the right to silence.

“It shows the mindset of Alex Salmond’s government and how different it is from the days of 2011 when the First Minister said he had a majority, but not a monopoly of ­wisdom. Now Mr Salmond is not listening to anybody.”

Carmichael also claimed the abolition of corroboration would not lead to an increase in conviction rates in rape cases. He said: “I have been involved in the prosecution in a number of cases where you didn’t always get a conviction.

“That was not because of corroboration, it was more to do with attitudes to cases such as rape and sexual assault.

“Once you get rid of corroboration you will never get it back again and we should think back to cases in the English criminal justice system, where there were miscarriages.

“After the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, we said this sort of thing couldn’t happen in Scotland because our system requires corroboration.

“But if you remove the need for corroboration, you will inevitably see more miscarriages of justice and these cases will become a feature of the system. Remember that corroboration doesn’t mean you have to have two eyewitnesses, it just means that you need a second piece of evidence that lends support to the first piece.

“Now the SNP government reminds us of the excesses of New Labour and has a mindset of not listening.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have no evidence the absence of a general rule of corroboration has led to an issue with increased miscarriages of justice in any other jurisdiction.

“This is a long overdue reform to a system which is preventing hundreds, potentially thousands, of cases from getting to court.”
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Big Wullie



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have no evidence the absence of a general rule of corroboration has led to an issue with increased miscarriages of justice in any other jurisdiction.


The Scottish Government keep using this statement but in reality they have never checked this out.

They cannot check it out because most of the jurisdictions they talk about do not publish any relevant material in English.

Someone ought to ask them exactly what jurisdictions they have checked to compare which allows them to keep making this statement.


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Sincere thanks to all those who have supported Shirley and challenged miscarriages of justice on this forum.