ALEX Salmond has rallied behind Kenny MacAskill after the Justice Secretary delayed his flagship plans for abolishing the need for corroboration in criminal trials.

The First Minister told MSPs yesterday that denial of justice for victims was as important as possible miscarriages of justice after Mr MacAskill agreed to a further review of the safeguards.

Corroboration is a centuries-old requirement that evidence against an accused must originate from more than one source to obtain a conviction.

Mr MacAskill asked Justice Committee members this week to agree to pass the Criminal Justice Bill intact and in return he would delay the implementation of the abolition of corroboration pending a further review of safeguards.

Mr Salmond said: "Why should it [corroboration] not be a general principle? Because it prevents some cases from getting to court and some people from getting their day in court, because it is a general rule. That seems to me an important point to make."

He was responding to a fierce attack by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie at First Minister's Questions. Mr Rennie asked the SNP leader: "Does he really expect the Parliament to vote for the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill - a bill that abolishes a great Scottish legal safeguard, that the Government says is incomplete and that is so bad that it will need fixed later?"

Mr Rennie called the further review of safeguards "crackers" and asked: "Can the First Minister think of another occasion on which the Government has said, 'Pass this law, and we will decide what to do later. It is safe to vote for this because we will fix it afterwards'?"

Mr Salmond responded by saying Mr MacAskill had made his offer of a review of further safeguards in good faith. Mr Rennie dismissed it as "cack-handed" and linked it to other issues such as police centralisation and the anti-sectarianism bill which had been badly handled.

Mr Salmond rounded on MSPs who were quick to raise issues concerning cases that did not go to court. "To draw attention to that difficulty and to propose a solution, as the Justice Secretary is doing, is exactly the right thing to do," he said. "What I cannot take from Members of the Parliament or anyone else is their demanding to know why a case cannot get to court and then refusing to support proposals to sort out that injustice. Being denied justice, as people are being at the moment, is as important an issue as the possible miscarriage of justice."

He added: "If the Justice Secretary can bring forward proposals that ensure people have access to justice and can satisfy people that the danger of miscarriage of justice can be alleviated and stopped, surely any reasonable person - and particularly the victims of crime - would want to see the Parliament support that."

LibDem Alison McInnes said after the session: "The Justice Secretary's proposals threaten to tip the scales of justice. Miscarriages of justice are an affront in a civilised society, yet these proposals risk many more wrongful convictions.

"The SNP have now got themselves into the ludicrous position of asking Parliament to vote for something they openly acknowledge is deeply flawed and needs changed, promising they will sort it out later. Who has ever heard the like before?

"The Justice Secretary must withdraw these ill-considered plans from the Criminal Justice Bill altogether and put them to an independent commission for thorough review. We cannot pass a piece of legislation with our fingers crossed that it might come out all right in the end. Once corroboration is gone, it is gone forever."