There has been some reporting that Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) has done a “U-turn” in relation to the abolition of the absolute requirement for corroboration in Scottish Criminal Law. It is our understanding that Section 57 of the Criminal Justice Bill does not propose the abolition of the principle or practice of corroboration.
ASPS members are the senior operational leaders within Police Scotland and in the early stages of the debate we were not wholly convinced on the need for change. During the past 14 months, we have carefully listened to the debate and studied the detail before coming to a position as the bill now makes its way through the parliamentary process.
We support this change for a number of reasons, including the following. First, the police will continue to conduct thorough investigations, gathering all evidence and reporting the full facts and circumstances to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Nothing will change in this regard.
The burden of proof remains unchanged in that a charge against an accused person in court must continue to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.
We believe that victims of crime will get better access to justice, although we need to work with others to ensure they get better outcomes from the justice system. This will not infringe upon the rights of accused persons as fairness also remains at the centre of our criminal law.
We need to consider not just the quantity, but also the quality of evidence available in all cases and the various stages in the legal process will have a focus upon these crucial aspects. We have been further reassured by the evidence given by the Lord Advocate at the justice committee.
Finally, ASPS considers that the proposed abolition of the absolute requirement for corroboration represents a positive development of Scots law, which will provide better access to justice for victims of crime, while maintaining the balance of fairness as it applies to rights of suspects and accused persons as we move forward.
Chief SupT David O’Connor, QPM
President, Association of Scottish Police Superintendents