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Judge stands by views on corroboration

Scotland's second-most senior judge has stood by his controversial recommendation that the Scots law requirement for corroboration in criminal cases should be scrapped, insisting it is "medieval", not understood by some judges and will be abolished "sooner or later".

The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway, reiterated his view that the doctrine – a fundamental pillar of the Scottish criminal justice system which ensures at least two separate sources of evidence are required for a successful prosecution – has no place in a modern legal system, claiming it creates miscarriages of justice.

Lord Carloway, who was appointed by the Scottish Government to review the law of evidence following the landmark UK Supreme Court decision in the Cadder case – which ruled the Scots law practice of police questioning suspects without access to a solicitor was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights – also claimed many of his fellow judges did not understand the corroboration rule.

Speaking at an event organised by the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association and Solicitor Advocates, he pointed to Lord Hope's comments in the case of Mackie v Her Majesty's Advocate and the late Lord Rodger's comments in the case of Fox v Her Majesty's Advocate, which showed that their views of corroboration were different, Lord Carloway said: "If the two Scottish judges of the UK Supreme Court in London don't know what corroboration is then what is the hope for the rest of us?"

The judge also highlighted the case of Chick Young as an example of the shortcomings of the current system, where charges against a man accused of breaking into the BBC Scotland football pundit's house were dropped due to a lack of corroborative evidence.

The Lord Justice Clerk said: "If you ask anyone outwith this jurisdiction about corroboration, they will be horrified that people cannot be convicted on the evidence of a credible and reliable witness. We have a system whereby you can be an entirely credible witness, such as Chick Young, who can identify the person and say what he did, but his case gets nowhere."

In the lecture at Parliament House, the judge described corroboration as a "rule of medieval jurisprudence" which had been "abandoned by the rest of the western civilised world".

He added: "We have a system which creates miscarriages of justice and we have got to remedy it."

The lecture comes after Lord Carloway's fellow judges of the High Court of Justiciary argued the requirement for corroboration was a major safeguard against miscarriages of justice.

BAKTOSCH GILLAN

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