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Corroboration plans group unveiled

A High Court judge, sheriffs and lawyers have all been included in a new group being set up to consider what safeguards will be required if plans to scrap corroboration are approved.

Scottish Government plans to get rid of the centuries-old legal rule - which means that evidence against a person in a criminal case must come from more than one source - have been fiercely opposed by the legal profession.

While Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is committed to making the change, he has said a special group will look at what other reforms may be needed following the planned abolition of corroboration.

Earlier this month, the Government announced former high court judge Lord Bonomy is to head up the independent reference group.

Several leading figures from Scotland's criminal justice system have now been revealed as members.

These include judge Lady Dorrian, Sheriff Michael O'Grady QC and Sheriff Norman McFadyen.

Lawyers Murray Macara QC, Murdo MacLeod QC and advocate Jane Farquharson - who was in both Luke Mitchell and Peter Tobin's defence teams - will also be part of the group.

Other members include Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone from Police Scotland, Shelagh McCall from the Scottish Human Rights Commission and David McKenna from Victim Support Scotland.

While there has been opposition from within the legal profession to the scrapping of corroboration, the proposal has been welcomed by the police, victims' groups and prosecutors, with some arguing the change will make it easier to take cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse to court.

Mr MacAskill said: "The reference group has a prestigious membership list made up from respected individuals from Scotland's legal field and criminal justice system, as well as representation on victims and human rights.

"I have no doubt that their knowledge and experience will be invaluable in ensuring a comprehensive look at what additional safeguards and changes are required in our criminal justice system."

The proposal to scrap corroboration is included in the Scottish Government's Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill - which MSPs will vote on for the first time on Thursday, with a final vote due later.

It comes after one of Scotland's top judges, Lord Carloway, called for the change in a review of the criminal justice system, insisting corroboration is ''an archaic rule that has no place in a modern legal system''.

But MSPs on Holyrood's Justice Committee have already urged the Government to consider ditching the measure from the Bill.

Mr MacAskill said: "The removal of corroboration is long overdue.

"Lord Carloway's review, police, prosecutors and victims support groups have all stressed that it is a barrier to justice for victims in too many cases - cases which could be prosecuted in any other jurisdiction. Indeed, Scotland is the only country in the world to have this outdated requirement.

"I have always been clear that we are willing to listen and to work with experts and interested parties on building further safeguards into our reforms.

"I accept that many of the issues highlighted to the Justice Committee are based on genuine concern about the future operation of our system following abolition of the corroboration requirement.

"I am confident that the review by Lord Bonomy and his team will answer those concerns by carrying out a robust and thorough exploration of any additional safeguards which may be required once the corroboration requirement is abolished.

"I have made clear to the Parliament that the corroboration reform will not be brought into force until Parliament has approved any changes brought forward in light of any recommendations made by Lord Bonomy."

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