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Scrapping corroboration is a populist bridge too far

What is it about sex crime that turns liberal politicians into legal vigilantes?

The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is as liberal as they come. He wants to abolish custodial sentences for many crimes; he released on compassionate grounds the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, defying even President Obama; he supports the European Convention on Human Rights and the presumption of innocence. Kenny MacAskill is also a passionate defender of Scots law against the predations of the “English” Supreme Court. Except when it comes to sexual offences.

Too many rapists are going free, he believes, because of the archaic and patriarchal law of corroboration – the legal principle that, to secure a conviction, evidence must come from more than one witness to a crime. It’s a principle that has underpinned Scots law for a thousand years and is defended by almost every legal authority in Scotland.

The former Solicitor General, Lord McLuskey, says abolition of corroboration will lead to miscarriages of justice. High Court judges, the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates agree. The Scottish Human Rights Commission made its view clear in a statement in March: “Corroboration plays an important role in Scots law in preventing an accused being convicted on the basis of evidence of insufficient quality”. Of 528 Scottish lawyers polled by Scottish Legal News, only 3% thought the move would “strengthen and improve” Scottish justice.

Article in The Herald. Click here to read on. 

About @iainmacwhirter

I'm a columnist for the Herald. Author of "Road to Referendum" and "Disunited Kingdom". Was a BBC TV and radio presenter for 25 years - "Westminster Live" and "Holyrood Live" mainly. Spent time as columnist for The Observer, Guardian, New Statesman. Former Rector of Edinburgh University. Live in Edinburgh and spend a lot of time in the French Pyrenees. Will that do?


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