Prosecutors don’t have ‘biased mindset’

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We write with reference to Lord McCluskey’s article, “Plans for reform ill-judged” (Perspective, 15 January).

Lord McCluskey’s personal views on corroboration form part of the debate around the requirement for corroboration which is ongoing in many different fora and is a matter which will, of course, ultimately be for the Scottish Parliament to decide.

However, the assertion made by Lord McCluskey that in working with the police, prosecutors have a biased mindset cannot be left without challenge.

It is essential that your readers are made aware of the constitutionally independent role of the prosecutor in Scotland which is enshrined in legislation.

It is of note that Lord McCluskey does not quote any examples in which a biased mindset is said to have been evident.

Scotland’s Procurators Fiscal have always worked alongside the police in the investigation of serious crime and it is normal, and indeed proper, for them to instruct the police to carry out additional investigations when further evidence is considered necessary for the preparation or prosecution of criminal cases.

To suggest that this working relationship results in a biased mindset is offensive to the independence which Procurators Fiscal have exercised over the centuries and continue to exercise today.

David Harvie

Director of Serious Casework

John Logue

Procurator Fiscal, East of Scotland

John Dunn

Procurator Fiscal, West of Scotland

Liam Murphy

Procurator Fiscal, North of Scotland

John Service

President of Procurator Fiscal Society

As an ex-police officer and justice campaigner I welcome Lord McCluskey’s observations in respect of the Scottish Government’s appalling decision to abolish the legal requirement for corroboration.

In 2006, in a Scotsman article, His Lordship, commenting on my daughter Shirley McKie’s fight for justice, observed that the Lord Advocate was traditionally the watchdog of justice.

“The Lord Advocate has to nourish and assert the independence of the law officers’ role in the administration of justice. The threat to that independence invariably comes from the political power.”

Lord McCluskey’s latest intervention is equally prescient and the threat he speaks of is all too apparent in the current incestuous relationship between the Lord Advocate and Cabinet secretary for justice, which has arguably led to their current consensus on corroboration.

You leader goes on to say: “His lack of faith in the reliability of police evidence rings a warning bell about any moves to diminish the legal protection afforded to the accused in the Scottish courts.” The decade of suffering of my daughter, Shirley, at the hands of the police and prosecution services who were prepared to sacrifice truth and justice in their attempts to bludgeon her into submission bears vivid testimony as to the relevance of his warnings.

As a justice campaigner, I am sad to say the lessons have not been learned and I believe the removal of corroboration will give the green light to a minority of police officers to further push the boundaries in their pursuit of their version of justice.

To the doubters I would offer one word, “Lockerbie”, as proof of the system’s ability to sacrifice truth at the altar of expediency.

Lord McCluskey’s warning that “policemen are not saints” resonates even more powerfully now that we have a powerful centralised police service.

I would offer support to the opposition calls for a Scottish Law Commission or Royal Commission on the issue.

I would go further, however, and argue that in the face of the current government’s piecemeal first aid legal reforms we need such a commission into all aspects of Scottish criminal law.

Iain AJ McKie

South Beach Road

Ayr

For perhaps hundreds of years Scottish rapists, and would-be rapists, have gone unpunished because the nature of their crime is such that it is very unlikely to be witnessed by a third party.

Whatever the legal probity of retaining the need to apply the corroboration rule to other kinds of criminal activity, surely a case could be made for differentiating between them and rape, just as we differentiate between manslaughter and murder.

The institutionalised misogyny inherent in failing to do this is all too shockingly clear.

Peter Laidlaw

Bramdean Rise

Edinburgh

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