Once again, I must respond to the contribution of Lord McCluskey to the ongoing debate in respect of the proposed removal of the requirement for corroboration in criminal proceedings in Scotland (Letters, 23 January).
Lord McCluskey has previously been quoted citing numerous high-profile policing incidents, from the Birmingham Six to Hillsborough, and even using the recent “Plebgate” coverage in support of his position that the police are not to be trusted, inferring that the removal of corroboration would enable the police service to manipulate the system to their own ends.
This is a curious position to adopt, given that he of all people should be aware that these incidents have little relevance in Scotland, where a wholly different legal system operates.
Nor do they have any relevance to the issue of corroboration as, in Scotland, the Crown is the ultimate arbiter and decides whether or not a case will progress to court.
In this process the role of the police will be largely unchanged. We will continue to conduct thorough investigations, collate all the evidence available, interview witnesses and present a full case to the Crown.
Thereafter, our court system considers, examines and tests all the available evidence before reaching a conclusion on the guilt or otherwise of an accused, which must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. Therefore, all evidence collated by the police will still be independently tested by several bodies before a case is concluded.
It would appear that by citing these English incidents in support of his argument, Lord McCluskey has once again attempted to unfairly criticise the role of the police in the criminal process in Scotland and by such means attempt to erode that public trust and confidence.
It is also worthy of note that it is members of the legal profession – not the police – who have sought to introduce this fundamental change to the Scottish legal process. We believe the proposed change will provide some of our most vulnerable victims of crime with better access to the justice system. Further work may be required to ensure they achieve better outcomes from that system, but these alterations should not infringe upon the rights of an accused person as fairness will always remain at the centre of the Scottish justice system.
I believe it is wholly appropriate that we should debate these matters and welcome the contribution of every stakeholder in the process.
We should also debate the safeguards that will be required to apply a legal balance should the requirement for corroboration be removed.
We are reassured by the fact that the Scottish Government has taken time to consider these important matters and thus will allow that debate to continue.
Furthermore, the recent commitment of the Cabinet secretary for justice Kenny MacAskill to initiate a further review of this process in order to identify the necessary safeguards is also to be welcomed.
Ultimately, it is only right and proper that our parliament formulates the law to be applied in Scotland. While I welcome this debate, I believe it is entirely inappropriate that it be sullied by unwarranted attacks on our police officers who do their very best for the communities they serve on a daily basis but are often seen as an easy target.
(Chief Supt) David O’Connor QPM
Association of Scottish Police Superintendents
The argument for binning corroboration as a requisite before a case can be brought to court (Letters, 24 January) appears to be that its place will be automatically filled by common sense and credibility.
This almost claims that wrongful convictions cannot occur. They not only can, they have done, and innocent people have suffered long imprisonment.
This trust in the matchless power of truth and the lie-detecting sensibilities of jury members and magistrates falters before experience. Never mind offences considered in courts - look at the happenings in the wider world and how the popularised versions of these, passed from generation to generation, are sometimes demolished by later investigation, and this despite the passage of years and the absence of live evidence.
Jimmy Savile, Hillsborough, WMD in Iraq – all testify to commonplace gullibility.
There is a sniff of lynch law in wanting too readily to be rid of safeguards such as corroboration. As safeguards are needed to prevent offences, they are also needed to prevent allegations being passed off as offences.
Apart from which, the law is much too heavy with jargon. I fear that too frequently justice is performed as some kind of knowledge test, such as that required of big city taxi drivers, using a law dictionary instead of a street atlas. What else can explain a case being dropped because of a “technicality”?