Dear Scotland

Scottish politics from a female, LibDem perspective

A case for corroboration

There have been times this week when it’s been difficult to concentrate on domestic politics.
All eyes, it seemed, were focused on the prize on offer across the Atlantic.
Obama and Romney had replaced Salmond and Cameron as the names on everyone’s lips. Briefly.
Before the last states had declared normal service was resumed. The First Minister had achieved a record number of days in office, and Salmond was the name du jour once more.
But while the SNP are entitled to celebrate their leader’s longevity in Bute House some of the effects of his time in office demand a little more scrutiny.
One in particular provokes fears over the future of our justice system.
Corroboration, a centuries old safeguard against miscarriages of justice, and unique to Scots law, could be about to be abolished by the Scottish Government.
A report this summer, commissioned by that Government and produced by Judge Lord Carloway, described it as based on ‘mediaeval’ thinking and sparked immediate controversy among the legal establishment.
At first glance the subject might sound a little a dry and legalistic but its implications for all of us could be far reaching.
Corroboration ensures that all key evidence is backed by two sources.
Without that it’s conceivable that any of us could find ourselves in court facing the trumped-up allegation of a single individual with no secondary evidence to back their claims, and no need for it.
High Court judges, the organisation Justice Scotland and opposition politicians have all spoken out against the proposal.
In their response to the government’s consultation process the country’s judges said they feared the move could lead to ‘decreasing confidence in the legal system’.
They highlighted the problem of assessing the true facts of a case with only the evidence of one witness to rely on.
They pointed to the danger that a jury faced with one person’s word against another might be reluctant to convict an accused.
And they they were concerned that without the need to find corroborating evidence police inquiries could become more lax and less likely to uncover all the evidence.
Corroboration’s value in ensuring fair trials was also underlined by the organisation Justice Scotland who called for a full inquiry.
As it stands Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill has indicated the government’s intention is to go ahead with legislation.
Opposition politicians including LibDem justice spokesperson Alison McInnes have called on him not to rush ahead.
Liberal Democrats have called for a Royal Commission to give the recommendations a full and thorough consideration.
On something as fundamental as our right to a fair trial surely we deserve nothing less.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2012 by .
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