The age-old human rights safeguard – under which at least two pieces of evidence are required for a conviction – has been thrown in to doubt after last year’s controversial Cadder ruling by the UK Supreme Court.
One of Scotland’s most respected judges, Lord Carloway, is questioning the rule in his Government-commissioned review of Scots Law following Cadder. Yesterday two major organisations, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Law Society of Scotland, entered the debate with a spirited defence of corroboration.
Shelagh McCall, an advocate, and one of the SHRC commissioners, said: “Abolishing corroboration for some or all offences would be a major change in Scots Law. If the Carloway Review concludes that the abolition of corroboration should be considered then the matter should be taken up in detail by the Scottish Law Commission or a Royal Commission.”
The Law Society’s new president, Cameron Ritchie, said: “We feel the requirement for corroboration should remain. 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.”
The Cadder judgment forced the Scottish Government to introduce emergency legislation to allow all suspects in custody access to legal advice. But the law also extended the amount of time a suspect could be detained, from six hours to 12 – with a possible extension after that.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill asked Lord Carloway to review Scots Law in light of Cadder. Lord Carloway will report back in the autumn.
Senior members of the judiciary, the Crown Office and the Scottish Government remain concerned by what they see as an effort by the UK Supreme Court to anglicise Scots Law.
Many defence lawyers, however, have welcomed the judgment.