'Radical' law reforms could end need for corroboration
SATURDAY courts could be set up across Scotland as part of "radical" law reforms that may also see the requirement for corroboration scrapped.
Lord Carloway's consultation paper, which is launched today, also raises the possibility that inference could be drawn when defendants choose to remain silent during interview.
He goes on to suggest that suspects could continue to be questioned even after they have been charged.
The senior judge, pictured below, was asked to carry out a review after a Supreme Court ruling in October that Peter Cadder, from Glasgow, should not have been questioned by police without being given access to legal advice.
That decision changed Scots Law, led to the collapse of 867 criminal cases, and triggered emergency Scottish Government legislation doubling the length of time a suspect can be held without charge to 12 hours, or 24 in certain circumstances.
Once charged, suspects should appear in court the next day, which can be a Monday if they are charged on a Friday, or even a Tuesday on bank holidays.
Since the length of time a suspect can be detained before being charged has increased, suspects can now be arrested on a Thursday and held until they appear in court on Tuesday.
Lord Carloway has raised the possibility of a Saturday court serving each region as a way of preventing that, but he does not expect that to be the most controversial of the raft of reforms, which he describes as "quite radical" in his foreword.
Lord Carloway said: "I expect that there will be special attention on some topics in particular, such as corroboration and whether there should be any inference from a suspect's silence in answer to questioning."
The consultation, which will run until 3 June, contains 34 questions on suspects' rights, police questioning, child suspects, length of detention, evidence and appeals.
Lord Carloway has already discussed the issues with a reference group of senior police officers, lawyers, human rights advocates and academics, and, while he will not make his recommendations to the Scottish Government until the autumn, he made it clear he has built up some opinions about the direction in which the review is travelling.
In a challenge to supporters of corroboration, he said: "If the argument for it is that corroboration prevents miscarriages of justice, I would like to see where it's coming from and if it's true, given the absence of corroboration from any other system in the West, as a fundamental requirement."
In Scotland, corroboration - two individual pieces of evidence of guilt - is required to take a case to court, while in England and Wales, for example, it merely makes a case more compelling.
Lord Carloway added: "In this country there's an idea that, once charged by the police, you are not questioned any further. I'm not entirely sure that's something that needs to continue."A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The justice secretary asked Lord Carloway to conduct a review of criminal practice in Scotland in the wake of last year's judgment of the UK Supreme Court in the case of Cadder. The results will be considered by the next Scottish Government."
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