Solicitor-general Lesley Thomson QC believes removing the need for corroboration in Scottish courts would lead to more convictions for domestic violence.
I do not wish to tread lightly into the serious issue of battered spouses and, in any case, Her Indoors would skelp my legs if I did.
But I am a bit worried about criminal trials in our fair land if corroboration is no longer required. The Scottish Government asked legal eagles to investigate the matter. The conclusion was: "The review is in no doubt that the requirement of corroboration should be entirely abolished for all categories of crime. It is an archaic rule that has no place in a modern legal system."
This same corroboration is described by other legal folk as "fundamental" and a "cornerstone" of Scots law. A clue to its importance may be contained in those two words.
I thought that corroboration was just a long word for proof but it's more than that. It involves two separate sources of evidence to prove a point: a witness, an admission by the accused, or CSI stuff.
It seems obvious that the liberty of an accused should not be jeopardised by one source of evidence, maybe a police person anxious for a conviction or an expert witness on a retainer who may not be all that expert.
The thing about the law is we can always get a second opinion. As Lord Carloway, the judge in charge of the corroboration review, knows. He's the chap who imposed a transfer ban on the football team formerly known as Rangers. His colleague Lord Glennie disagreed and overturned the ban.
Here's my usual rigorous analysis. If the authorities want easier convictions, they might try these methods:
Truss up the accused and throw into a pond. If he or she sinks, the verdict is guilty. Similarly, if the accused is heavier than a duck.
Judges may like to start a trial with that well-known phrase from the Spanish Inquisition: "Show the accused the instruments". A spot of water-boarding may be a useful modern courtroom tool and cheaper than sending the accused to Guantanamo.
There is always that legal certitude: "If he's no' guilty, how comes he's in the dock?"
Finally, if spouse-beaters are escaping justice for lack of proof, it's time we had a Domestic Violence Serious Corroboration Squad.
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