Should corroboration be removed, asks committee as part of Criminal Justice Bill scrutiny?

26.06.2013

Views on the Bill that proposes to remove the need for corroboration and would increase a jury majority to two-thirds for a guilty verdict are welcomed by the Justice Committee which publishes its call for evidence on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill today.

The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill takes forward the recommendations of two independent reviews which considered aspects of the criminal justice system.

The Bill implements recommendations from Lord Carloway’s review of criminal law and practice. It addresses a broad range of issues including corroboration, the length of time someone can be detained without charge, rights of access to a solicitor, questioning of witnesses, arrest and detention, child suspects and vulnerable adult suspects.

The Bill also implements recommendations from Sheriff Bowen’s Independent Review of Sheriff and Jury Procedure. It includes proposals to require the prosecutor and the defence to hold a compulsory business meeting in advance of the first hearing. The length of time the accused can be remanded before being brought to trial will also be extended from 110 days to 140 days.

Finally, the Bill brings forward additional issues intended to complement the Carloway and Bowen reviews such as increased use of TV links to give evidence; making people trafficking an aggravated offence and increasing the maximum sentence for handling offensive weapons.

Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said:

“This is a huge Bill that goes to the very heart of our criminal justice system it is aiming to reform. It would be our intention to call Lord Carloway to give evidence as much of the Bill implements his recommendations.

“While the proposals based on the Carloway and Bowen reviews address everything from arrest and custody to child suspects and trafficking, we know that one of the most contentious issues our Committee will be scrutinising is the proposal abolishing the requirement for corroboration. We intend to give that proposal very thorough and full scrutiny.

“We want to hear from those at the sharp end of the criminal justice system on whether they agree we should remove what some perceive as an outmoded legal notion or whether to do so would lead to a greater risk of miscarriages of justice? Either way, now is the time to make your views known to the Justice Committee via our call for evidence.”

Background

The Carloway Review was set up on 26 October 2010 to review criminal law and practice following the United Kingdom Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Cadder v HMA and the subsequent passage of the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010 which was introduced to deal with the immediate impact of that decision. The Carloway report was published on 17 November 2011.

Sheriff Principal Bowen QC was commissioned in April 2009 by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to examine the arrangements for sheriff and jury business, including the procedures and practices of the Sheriff Court. He was asked to make recommendations on a more efficient and cost effective operation of sheriff and jury business in promoting the interests of justice and reducing the inconvenience and stress to victims and witnesses involved in cases. The Independent Review of Sheriff and Jury Procedure was published on 11 June 2010.

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