ENSURING justice for women and children in rape and domestic abuse cases by changing the rules on corroboration is "worth ruffling feathers" among lawyers, Kenny MacAskill has claimed.

The Justice Secretary has backed the findings of the Lord Carloway review by publishing a bill to end the statutory need for corroboration in criminal trials, while balancing this by toughening the rules for a jury verdict from requiring a simple majority of 8-7 to a two-thirds requirement of 10-5 to convict.

The plans were condemned as "populism at its worst" by Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell, but Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: "It can't be right to have a justice system where three-quarters of rapes reported to the police can't be prosecuted.

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"However, we need to be realistic about the prospect of this leading to increased convictions. This bill will remove a barrier to cases getting to court but it will still be for juries to make a decision beyond reasonable doubt."

Bringing an end to the absolute requirement for corroboration in criminal trials, and the change in jury verdict rules, have dominated the post-Carloway debate.

Many in the legal profession are hostile to changing what they see as a defence against wrongful conviction.

The Justice Secretary, however, remains defiant. He said: "I have had a few run-ins with the legal profession but I think it's for the right reasons and I think Scotland will be a better place.

"If the price of providing justice for women and children is to ruffle a few feathers in the Faculty of Advocates then so be it. Laws are created by Parliament, which is elected by the people of Scotland.

"As Justice Secretary I am required to weigh up the representations from those who practise in the courts of law but also to weigh up the interests of those who are affected by the laws of Scotland.

"So I listen to the judiciary, but I listen to the police. I hear the concerns of the faculty and solicitors but I note the worries and anxieties of Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women's Aid and Zero Tolerance."

Mr MacAskill said the dated nature of the law and its lack of application in any other western jurisdiction should give pause for thought.

He said he felt compelled to act for "women and children who have suffered in silence, often behind closed doors where justice just didn't take place", and insisted that the standard of proof would remain "proof beyond reasonable doubt" through "quality of evidence rather than quantity of evidence".

The Law Society of Scotland remains concerned about the possible change.

Raymond McMenamin, from the society's criminal law committee, said: "We believe that removing the requirement for corroborated evidence, without including sufficiently strong safeguards in the bill, could simply result in a contest between two competing statements on oath and, as a result, bring increased risk of miscarriages of justice.

"The requirement for corroborated evidence is not an antiquated, outmoded legal notion but is a fundamental principle of our justice system."

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell, who practised as an advocate depute in Scotland's High Court, said: "If the SNP proceed with these proposals, it will confirm that they are not fit to have the stewardship of Scottish criminal law. This is populism at its worst. Corroboration is an essential component of the presumption of innocence and a necessary bulwark against false accusation and injustice."