Evidently wrong

I despair at the incapacity of the Rape Crisis Scotland personnel to understand what I write. You quote the centre’s information worker as saying: “Lord 
McCluskey’s assertion that the disappearance of corroboration would result in a drop in the number of convictions is stated with confidence…” (your report, 23 January).

I made no such assertion. What I wrote was: “If corroboration disappears, the number of rape cases that fail after trial will rise. It is already high where there is corroboration”.

The logic is simple. The government says, and Rape Crisis hopes, that abolishing corroboration will increase the number of rape cases brought to trial.

I agree that will happen. At present, no rape trial can go to the jury without corroboration – yet the failure rate in corroborated rape cases decided by juries is already high.

The failure rate in cases brought without corroboration is bound to be higher: juries are slow to convict people of serious crimes on the word of one witness contradicted by one other. So: more cases will go to trial – but more will fail to produce a conviction. The number of acquittals will rise but the number of convictions will not drop.

At the heart of this dispute is a failure of too many commentators to understand what corroboration means in this context. Elementary errors as to what the corroboration rules require were presented in evidence to the justice committee even by persons claiming expertise in this field.

The reported claim by the Crown Office that “supporting evidence” (based on the Dutch model) will be needed before a case is brought is baffling: neither the Crown Office nor the justice secretary [Kenny MacAskill] is able to give a convincing explanation of the difference between “corroboration” and “supporting evidence”.

And if “supporting evidence” is to be required, the statute abolishing corroboration ought to define this new, untried concept. I am on the same side as those who seek to improve the reach of the law, especially in the field of sexual offences.

But the current proposal, defying centuries of daily forensic experience, is wrong-headed. It should be dropped.

(Lord) John 

Lord McCluskey’s recourse to a heavy emphasis on past police failures in his defence of Scottish corroboration laws (Letters, 23 January) is to be expected from a strictly legal standpoint, but it is amoral nonetheless. Conviction rates in Scottish rape cases speak for themselves.

A recourse to Scottish common sense and the public’s innate sense of moral dignity, to which competent politicians seldom appeal in vain, is more cogent. Kenny MacAskill is Cabinet secretary for justice, not law, and his stance should and will prevail.

Peter Laidlaw

Bramdean Rise


Lord McCluskey’s letter sets out the position on corroboration in such a way that it left me wondering just what our justice minister and his appointed Chief Constable can possibly find to argue against.

A few words from someone who knows law better than most made me wonder just what Messrs MacAskill and House can be thinking about in opposing the person best suited to give opinion on such a matter.

Well done, Lord McCluskey, for putting the case so eruditely.

Alan Macdonald

Newbattle Abbey Crescent