THE SCOTTISH Government will consider its approach to the proposal to abolish the age-old requirement of corroboration in criminal trials next spring, new Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has confirmed.
Former High Court judge Lord Bonomy is currently leading a commission to consider what safeguards can be applied once the need for more than one source of evidence is removed.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Mr Matheson has declined to offer his own opinion on the proposal, which exposed his predecessor Kenny MacAskill to criticism from the legal profession and opposition parties, until Lord Bonomy reports next spring.
“In relation to corroboration, the Bonomy Commission, which has a whole range of stakeholders and legal experts on it, is due to report to the Scottish Government in the spring of next year,” he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
“Once I have received Lord Bonomy’s report we will then consider what is the best approach we take in moving forward with the proposal to abolish corroboration.
“What I am not going to do is pre-emt the commission that we have set up under Lord Bonomy to consider this matter, I think that would be very disrespectful to Lord Bonomy and all of those who are undertaking a considerable amount of work to explore this whole issue and the safeguards around corroboration.
“So I’m going to await Lord Bonomy’s report and once we have received his report I will then consider what is the most appropriate way forward on the issue of corroboration in the Criminal Justice Bill that is before Parliament just now.”
The controversial plan was backed in a key vote at Holyrood in February.
Mr MacAskill had to rely on the SNP’s majority to ensure the proposal remained in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill by just three votes.
He refused to bow to opposition pressure and apparent concern among some SNP members, telling MSPs they would be denying justice to victims by failing to support the removal of the centuries-old legal rule which requires evidence to come from more than one source.
He earlier tried to win over the opposition by setting up Lord Bonomy’s expert group, but he insisted that “the corroboration reform must stay in the Bill”.
The plan to remove the provision was welcomed by police, victims’ groups and prosecutors, with some arguing its removal will make it easier to take cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse to court.
But Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green politicians joined forces to demand the SNP halt the plan.
Mr MacAskill also faced calls to demit office from outspoken critic Lord McCluskey for his “relentless legal reforms” and “interference with long-established laws”.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS