Court evidence

The Scottish Court Service wishes to reduce delays in court procedures and the length of trials. It suggests that this might be achieved by allowing witnesses to pre-record their evidence, thus removing the necessity of a witness having to attend court. On the face of it, this is an attractive suggestion but, sadly, it would be quite impractical.

If an accused pleads not guilty and a case proceeds to trial it is almost always because the defence wishes to challenge the prosecution evidence. The only way in which this can be done is by the cross-examination of a witness. In order to be cross-
examined, a witness would have to attend court.

Pre-recorded evidence might take the place of a witness’s evidence in chief (ie the evidence given in response to the prosecutor’s questions) but could never replace cross-examination.

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If a witness’s evidence is not to be challenged, there are already provisions in effect by which the evidence of that witness can be agreed by prosecution and defence, and the witness need not attend court.

The only realistic way in which criminal legal procedures could be speeded up is by increasing the number of judges, sheriffs and prosecutors and re-opening the courts which have been closed. But this, of course, would be expensive and, no doubt, our politicians would not agree!

Alastair L Stewart

Albany Road

Broughty Ferry