Holyrood accused of doing ‘huge damage’ to Scots law by top lawyer
HOLYROOD has caused more damage to Scots law since devolution that Westminster did in three centuries, it has been claimed by a leading lawyer.
• Solicitor advocate claims Scottish Parliament has harmed Scots law
• Alistair Bonnington hits out over end of double jeopardy and corroboration
• Lawyer claims firms will not do legal aid work due to financial issues
• Lord Carloway has proposed a radical overhaul of the Scottish legal system
• Scotland ‘now has Soviet-style laws on double jeopardy’
Alistair Bonnington, a solicitor advocate, claims “huge damage” has been done since the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
He hit out at the ending of double jeopardy - the tradition preventing a person being tried twice for the same crime.
Mr Bonnington also accused MSPs of conducting a “sustained campaign” to erode legal aid.
He also said he feared two “gold standards” of Scots law would soon be lost - the need for evidence to be backed up with corroboration and the ban on juries being told about an accused person’s previous convictions.
A review of the law by Lord Carloway has already recommended doing away with the requirement for corroboration - with this having being accepted by the Scottish Government.
Ministers are currently consulting on how best to implement Lord Carloway’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Law Commission has called for both juries and judges to be told if an accused person has previous convictions - something ministers are now considering.
Mr Bonnington said: “Sadly it is not going too far to say that Holyrood has done more harm to Scots law than Westminster managed in more than 300 years.”
He hit out at the “sustained campaign by MSPs to erode legal aid to the point where lawyers will refuse to represent the impecunious accused in criminal cases”.
The lawyer added: “Few legal firms now do legal aid work because if they did they would go bankrupt.”
He also claimed the “established traditions of Scots law have been abandoned to fit in with right-wing tabloid thinking”.
Mr Bonnington argued Scotland now had “Soviet-style laws on double jeopardy”, claiming the ban on trying someone for the same case twice had been ended in a bid to retry the World’s End murder case after Angus Sinclair was cleared of killing Helen Scott and Christine Eadie in Edinburgh.
The lawyer went on: “These retrograde steps seem sure to be followed by the destruction of two of the gold standards of Scots criminal law: the need for corroboration of evidence and the prohibition against juries knowing prior convictions.
“Again, these are the kind of rules one expects to find in the third world.”
He added: “Scots lawyers are having to defend Scots law against our own Parliament. It clearly is not safe in their hands.”
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