THIS was the year Scotland decided – for the time being at least – that its fate lay with the United Kingdom. But 2014 has also been a momentous year in matters of crime and justice.
It was the year that Angus Sinclair was finally convicted of the 1977 World’s End murders, an infamous case which could only be resolved with reform of the centuries-old double jeopardy principle, allowing for the re-trial of a man police now believe to be one of Scotland’s worst-ever serial killers.
The past 12 months have also been notable for the stooshie over armed policing, which marked former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s final months in office.
There was also the introduction of the Courts Reform Bill – a contentious series of changes to Scotland’s civil courts. Yet more controversial is the move to scrap corroboration, which was put off until 2015 when the independence referendum would be safely out of the way.
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Scotland’s role in the torture of terror suspects was on the agenda when the lord advocate asked Police Scotland to look at a US Senate report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” as part of an ongoing inquiry into rendition.
And survivors of historic sexual abuse were finally given the public inquiry they have waited years for.
Perhaps the biggest story this year, however, was the murder of three-year-old Mikaeel Kular by his mother, Rosdeep Adekoya.
A huge police search was launched in January when Mikaeel was reported missing from the home he shared with his family in Edinburgh. Hundreds of members of the public joined the effort, but Mikaeel was already dead. His mother had killed him before putting his body in a suitcase, leaving it in woodland behind her sister’s home in Kirkcaldy.
Adekoya is around four months into a 11-year jail term.
But questions remain.
Next month sees the publication of a significant case review.
Among the questions it will need to answer is why social workers stopped monitoring Adekoya a month before she killed her son.
It must also find an explanation as to why the case was never passed to social workers in Edinburgh, despite Adekoya and her young family moving to the capital from Fife.
Indeed, social services in Edinburgh had no knowledge of the family prior to Mikaeel’s disappearance.
It is always easy to see what went wrong with the benefit of hindsight – the knowledge that those in social services didn’t have in the months leading up to Mikaeel’s death.
Nevertheless, it is important that lessons are learned in the year ahead.
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