JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill is under pressure to ditch his plans to end the need for corroboration in criminal trials after an expert group said it believed wide-ranging safeguards would have to be introduced to prevent miscarriages of justice if the law-change goes ahead.

A review group led by former High Court judge Lord Bonomy said this week jury sizes should be cut and the proportion of jurors needed to secure a conviction increased, to protect against wrongful conviction should the centuries-old requirement in Scots law for two pieces of corroborating evidence to secure a criminal conviction be axed.

The preliminary findings of the group, which was set up by the Scottish Government, also state that the need for corroboration should be retained in certain cases and have been cited by leading legal figures as an acknowledgement that removing the need for corroboration carries risks.

Plans to ditch the need for corroboration - a requirement that Mr MacAskill has labelled "outdated" - were put on hold earlier this year and will not progress until Lord Bonomy's group produces its final recommendations in April.

Advocates of the policy believe it will increase conviction rates, particularly for offences which are often committed in private, such as sexual assault or rape.

However, following the launch of a consultation document in which the expert groups' preliminary conclusions were outlined, the Scottish Conservatives said that they remained opposed to the abolition of corroboration.

Scottish Conservative Chief Whip John Lamont said: "Many of the recommendations here are exactly what the Scottish Government was told in the months leading up to this move.

"While reforms are needed to our legal system, one of those should not be to abolish the centuries-old rule of corroboration. It is at the very core of our justice system, and an important safeguard against miscarriages of justice.

"The justice secretary's peculiar approach to reviewing this has proved a waste of time. If he'd only listened to experts and opposition politicians before, none of this would have been necessary."

Meanwhile, Christine Grahame, convenor of Holyrood's justice committee and an SNP colleague of Mr MacAskill's, said the case for ending corroboration had not yet been made beyond doubt.

"I welcome comments with regard to safeguards but for me it remains a work in progress," she said.

"I therefore reserve my judgement as to whether the case for abolition of the requirement in all circumstances has been proved."

Other preliminary findings reported by Lord Bonomy's group were that all interviews with suspects should be recorded on video and that judges' powers to dismiss cases before they are put to a jury be extended.

Brian McConnachie QC, chairman of the Faculty of Advocates' Criminal Bar Association, said the proposals showed the scale of change needed to "balance the scales" if corroboration was axed.

He added: "They have listed a great number of things they consider would have to be done in order to find some safeguards once you remove corroboration. This whole package just demonstrates the enormity of its abolition."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We welcome the work done so far by Lord Bonomy's prestigious and substantial post-corroboration safeguards review.

"The review group combines academic excellence with practical experience, and is made up of 18 respected individuals drawn from the full spectrum of relevant groups, including victims' and human rights bodies, judges and legal practitioners, scholars and the police.

"We look forward to seeing the results of the group's public consultation."