John Scott: These measures have a vital role

I AM writing this piece beneath portraits of judges and lawyers from centuries past.

Today, I could easily convince myself that they show looks of puzzlement and concern which weren’t there yesterday.

The aim of Lord Carloway’s thorough report is “to have a system that not only surpasses minimum requirements today, but also stands up to developments in the foreseeable future”.

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I welcome that, as well as many of the detailed proposals which should do much to avoid our system being so vulnerable to the consequences of a case like Cadder. The report’s emphasis on ECHR is key to this. My own preference is to revert to a six-hour detention period, with extensions to 12 hours only if justified, but at least 24-hour detentions should go.

Many lawyers hate change, but it is vital that our justice system remains credible. That should not mean, however, that change must be embraced for the sake of it, or that improved conviction rates should be an aim of the system at the expense of time-tested safeguards.

Lord Carloway recommends that we abolish corroboration. I agree with the submissions of the High Court judges to the review. There was no justification for including corroboration in the review.

Giving suspects access to a lawyer should not come at the price of removing the valuable quality control provided by corroboration. I am convinced that it helps us to avoid miscarriages of justice.

Essential safeguards in our justice system perform a vital role in protecting the innocent. If some guilty people benefit, that is an unfortunate consequence of a fair system.

Following a year when the SNP government was involved in attacks on the Supreme Court for eroding Scotland’s justice system, I hope that they are not responsible for removing one of the most unique safeguards in our system.

• John Scott QC is vice-president (crime) in the Society of Solicitor Advocates.