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Senior figure's last-ditch corroboration bid rebuffed

ONE of Scotland's most senior legal figures has been rebuffed by Holyrood's Justice Committee after he made an eleventh-hour request to give evidence on plans to abolish the requirement for corroboration in criminal trials.

The former Solicitor General and High Court judge Lord McCluskey has described the plans to scrap the requirement for two independent sources of evidence as "bizarre and ill thought-out" and contacted the committee asking to give evidence on the Criminal Justice Bill.

But months of evidence-gathering at Stage 1 ended recently with a final grilling for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who offered to suspend implementation, pending further discussions about safeguards of the rights of accused.

Justice convener Christine Grahame felt Lord McCluskey was implying that the committee had done insufficient work in relation to consultation and confessed to feeling "a bit cross" about his approach.

She told the committee: "We have had 65 submissions, we had 11 evidence sessions between September last year and this month, six of which were specifically on corroboration.

"Furthermore this isn't the first time the committee has looked at the proposal.

"We all recognise that the proposals in the Bill relating to corroboration are hugely significant, this committee probably more so than anyone else, and require thought and careful scrutiny. However, it's not possible to accommodate any further evidence at this stage."

She added: "That does not preclude us from taking further evidence at Stage 2 if amendments come forward."

Lord McCluskey said he had been moved to respond by "serious errors" in the evidence of both the Lord Advocate and the Justice Secretary, and that as Mr MacAskill had only given his evidence less than a fortnight ago he could not have responded sooner.

"I am not satisfied. Mistakes were made which were not picked up," he said.

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