Media Release: Corroboration a vital safeguard, says Law Society

THE requirement of corroboration is an important safeguard in prosecutions and should remain enshrined in Scots criminal law, the Law Society of Scotland says today in its response to the Carloway Review.

Cameron Ritchie, president of the Society and member of the working group that considered the Review, said: “We feel the requirement for corroboration should remain. It is a vital safeguard of Scots law which ensures that people cannot be convicted on the word of just one person.

“It is, of course, a different case in England and Wales where the evidence from a single witness does not require to be corroborated, but a Judge can, at his or her discretion, decide if a jury should be warned on relying on this evidence. Additionally, Courts in England and Wales can form the view that evidence should not be placed before the jury – this is alien to Scots Criminal Procedure.

“In all circumstances, we feel any change to the law in Scotland with regard to corroboration, should form part of a full scale review of Scottish criminal procedure and should not, under any circumstances, be contemplated in isolation.”

Said a spokesperson: “The Carloway Review, led by Lord Carloway, evaluated a number of areas of Scots law in light of the passing of the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010. The Review re-examined the core principles underlying the procedures police questioning, arrest and charge, and detention of suspects.”

Mr Ritchie added: “We are still concerned about the increased length of detention time now provided for in the Act, which has increased from six hours to 12 hours and even 24 hours for a small number of cases. We are also concerned that this section of the Act does not contain any provision for children or vulnerable adults. We continue to have reservations about the facilities available at police stations for the purposes of holding suspects for increased lengths of time. We voiced this view to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee in March and we hope these concerns will be addressed.”

The Society also restated its view that a full audit of Scots criminal procedural law is needed to ensure total compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Mr Ritchie said: “We respectfully suggest that a wider review extending beyond the scope of Lord Carloway’s remit should be considered. We feel a review taking into account all aspects of Scottish Criminal procedure is imperative, to ensure compatibility with ECHR.

“It is particularly important that we ensure Scots law is compatible with ECHR, given the fact that in Scotland an accused can be convicted by a jury on a bare majority of eight to seven Jurors.

“We called for this review in our manifesto for 2011 and we will ensure we keep campaigning for it.”

Lord Carloway will consider all consultation responses and publish a report in the autumn.

Mr Ritchie added: “We look forward to reading Lord Carloway’s concluding report and recommendations later in the year and would welcome the chance to offer further assistance.”

Ends 10 June 2011

Notes to editors

Read the Law Society of Scotland’s response to the Carloway Review consultation June 2011.

The Law Society of Scotland gave oral evidence on Cadder to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee 8 March 2011.

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