I was very disappointed with Lord McCluskey’s comments on the ethics and behaviour of police officers (your report and Perspective, 15 January). I view his comments as ill-judged, unjust, outdated and not entirely relevant to his supposed topic, which was proposed changes to corroboration.
As leader of Police Scotland, I believe I speak for more than 17,000 police officers, as well as generations of retired officers, when I refute his outdated views on policing.
The values of our police service should always be a matter of high public interest and, reflecting that, I demand that every officer upholds the standards expected of them by the public we serve.
The interests of policing and public confidence are ill-served by his comments. Of course, a small number of officers let us all down but the huge majority deserve support for the job they do. I hope his Lordship reflects on this.
Turning to the matter of corroboration, the position of Police Scotland on the proposals is clear and has been well stated. We are in favour of change, however, that is rightly a decision for the Scottish Government and the Parliament.
The legal profession appears generally united against proposed changes – putting forward a view that the current system is near perfect. In my view it is not, and the law, along with policing, should be expected to evolve along with the society it serves in order to be effective. Suggestions that police officers will not pursue every investigative opportunity are not correct.
Significant changes in criminal procedure around solicitor access and, in particular, disclosure, provide robust protection for the rights of those accused of criminality and ensure Police Scotland will diligently gather the best evidence available in all investigations.
The most important safeguard is the test of sufficiency for conviction – “beyond reasonable doubt”. Essentially, the intent of the changes is to put more, not less, evidence in front of the sheriff or a jury and to let the court see the wider and fuller picture uncovered by a police investigation.
There is a danger that the strength of the legal establishment drowns out the voices of victims here – often victims of sexual and domestic abuse who are calling out for justice.
Currently their voices are not clearly heard in court and if improving access to justice is required, then so be it.
SIR STEPHEN HOUSE QPM
I read with interest your article entitled “Lord McCluskey – Plans for reform ill judged” and reached the conclusion that the comments attributed to this eminent and respected member of our legal establishment were equally ill judged.
Indeed, I am extremely disappointed that an individual of Lord McCluskey’s calibre found it necessary to attack the integrity of Scottish Police Service in such a manner merely to advance his personal views on the “corroboration debate”.
The stance of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) in relation to this matter remains unchanged; the police will continue to collate all available evidence in criminal matters which will then be submitted to the Crown.
Ultimately, it is a matter for the Crown to decide whether a case progresses to court. Lord McCluskey has cited numerous high-profile policing “incidents”, from the Birmingham Six to Hillsborough, and has even included “Plebgate” in support of his position.
He of all people should be aware that these incidents have little relevance in Scotland where a wholly different legal system operates.
Neither do they have any relevance to the issue of corroboration.
It would appear that the citing of these events has merely been a vehicle by which he can suggest that the police service cannot be trusted. The fact that he was unable to cite any Scottish examples in support of this assertion completely undermines this argument.
I believe that it is wholly appropriate that we should debate this matter and the safeguards that will be required should the requirement for corroboration be removed.
That said, I believe it is entirely inappropriate that the debate be sullied by unwarranted attacks of this nature, particularly as trust and confidence in Scottish policing are very high.
Chief Superintendent David O’Connor QPM
Association of Scottish
Lord McCluskey’s assault on the integrity and credibility of Scotland’s police was surpassed in its injustice and inaccuracies only by his portrayal of women as mendacious schemers, which demonstrated exactly the sorts of prejudices faced by survivors of sexual violence in their efforts to secure justice following an assault.
Reporting rape takes a great deal of courage, and survivors of sexual violence face many barriers in their search for justice.
The low level of reporting among rape victims is already to a large degree attributable to a fear among many that they will not be believed – and a grossly exaggerated perception of the extent to which false allegations of rape occur only makes this worse.
In fact, the rate of false allegations made for rape stands at around 3 per cent – this is no higher than for any other crime.
In reinforcing these baseless and damaging myths, Lord McCluskey does women in general, and rape survivors in particular, a great disservice.
These Jurassic attitudes have no place in the modern justice system, which, mercifully, has moved on from the days (about which Lord McCluskey sounds wistfully nostalgic) when serious sexual violence had to be accompanied by bruises or other evidence of force in order to fulfil the definition of rape.
The Lord Advocates Reference of 2001 which brought about this change was a significant development towards improving access to justice for rape survivors. The removal of corroboration will be another.
Rape Crisis Scotland