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MacAskill defends plan to overturn ancient legal principle

THE need for corroborating evidence in Scots criminal cases is "an outdated technical requirement," Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said, as he responded to fresh backing for his plan to abolish the ancient legal principle.

In a robust defence of his controversial proposals, he said corroboration had become a "barrier to prosecutions", especially in cases involving allegations of sexual offences or domestic abuse.

He spoke out after a woman at the centre of one of Scotland's most high-profile rape cases waived her right to anonymity to tell The Herald of her desire to see corroboration ended.

Echoing Mary Ann Davison's comments, Mr MacAskill said: "The removal of the requirement for corroboration is about giving victims of crime access to justice."

Mrs Davison's call, on behalf of victims, was also welcomed by Scottish Labour's justice spokesman Graeme Pearson, who said she had made a "valuable contribution" to the debate.

MSPs are considering Scottish Government plans to end corroboration, first proposed in a legal review by senior judge Lord Carloway in 2011.

Mr MacAskill said: "In abolishing the requirement we are seeking to ensure that the police and prosecutors can focus on seeking the best quality of evidence available.

"We consider this to be a more progressive approach than trying to meet an outdated technical requirement which is a barrier to prosecutions, particularly in sexual offence and domestic abuse cases, that would go ahead in any other jurisdiction."

In a fresh bid to reassure lawyers and judges, who have voiced opposition to the move, he added: "The removal of the requirement does not mean that someone will be prosecuted simply on the evidence of one individual, whether a police officer or a victim of crime.

"That has been made quite clear by the Lord Advocate, who has invoked both qualitative and quantitative test for prosecutions.

Mrs Davison said ending corroboration would also help create "a fairer criminal justice system for everyone".

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