Readers' Letters: Criminal law reforms are unlikely to work out

The present plans to reform our criminal law system are unlikely to remedy the flaws, perceived or imagined, of the present system.
First Minister Humza Yousaf and Justice Secretary Angela Constance back major justice reform legislation (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)First Minister Humza Yousaf and Justice Secretary Angela Constance back major justice reform legislation (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
First Minister Humza Yousaf and Justice Secretary Angela Constance back major justice reform legislation (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Firstly the abolition of the Not Proven verdict. As I understand it, historically there were only two verdicts, Proven and Not Proven. Apparently the Church of Scotland took the view, in accordance with their beliefs, that only God could determine guilt or innocence. A very rational standpoint. So why not revert to a system which was less, rather than more, stressful for complainers? Presently where an accused is acquitted the complainer is faced with a stark Not Guilty, with the implication that they (usually in rape cases) are lying.

Judge-only trials are very popular in autocratic regimes, giving a better chance of reaching a result more favourable to the authorities. If no juries in rape case, why have them in murder trials?

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Lastly, why reduce the number of jurors? Surely, if we are to retain majority verdicts it is better to have a larger number of decision makers?

Rape cases are highly emotional, and frequently complex. So are murder and fraud trials. Years ago I read an article by an English barrister suggesting reforms of rape laws. What she suggested, acknowledging the stigma that lurks in the background, was treating all cases previously described as rapes as assaults, which rapes are. I imagine it much easier for someone to cope with the notion they have been assaulted rather than raped. In each case the gravity of the offence could be dealt with by the sentencing Judge.

Branislav Sudjic, Pitlochry, Perth and Kinross

Vote loser

Humza Yousaf has a basketful of woes to contend with already yet his party seem keen to add to it. The latest idea from the SNP is to alter Scottish justice by, in essence, making it harder to gain a conviction by reducing the jury size from 15 to 12, yet asking for a higher percentage of the jurors to vote for a conviction. It appears all the justice system under the SNP is designed to do is empty the prisons. Is this another SNP vote loser to add to the growing list?

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Clearly not

Keith Brown must surely be regretting his comment about the SNP being the “most transparent party in the UK”. Or perhaps not? Every day brings a new revelation that ministers seemed not to be aware of. This week it was the gagging clause between Ferguson Marine and consultancy firm First Marine International, suppressing details of the report into the future of the former. Keith’s comments should go down in history as some the most badly timed ever. If only the SNP did shame.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

Blackford bomb

I wonder at what temperature Ian Blackford intended to serve up his revenge for his defenestration by Stephen Flynn. By now, it should be cold, but, given the furore in the SNP about their auditors having quit last September, it may turn out to be fiery. Mr Flynn succeeded Mr Blackford as SNP Westminster leader after a well trailed campaign.

Mr Blackford retreated to the backbenches surprisingly meekly. Now Blackford’s moment has come, with the news that Flynn did not learn of the auditors’ departure until 10 February. Mr Blackford is now in high dudgeon when anyone dares to suggest it was his duty to impart the news to his successor on the changeover of office. I wonder how many other bomblets Blackford has hidden, whose explosion may make life difficult for his usurper?

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Audit headache

The SNP are in trouble again as they seem to have some difficulty in finding an auditor to replace Johnston Carmichael, who dropped the SNP as clients last year. The rather obtuse reason given was that they were reviewing their client list. The accounts require to be filed by the end of May, or the SNP risk losing £1.2 million in “short money”.

We can only assume, therefore, that there is no SNP loyalist who holds both Practising and Audit Certificates willing to sign the accounts – or are they all keeping their heads below the parapet to avoid any action which could be detrimental to the business? The truth is we may never know.

James Macintyre, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Bad dreams

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Nicola Sturgeon may be right in describing the trauma engulfing the SNP in the last few weeks as the stuff of nightmares. However, many people would equally describe the results of the eight years of her leadership of Scotland in similar terms. Decimated island ferry services; NHS on life support; education bottom of the class and a justice system favouring the criminal over the victim. For Humza Yousaf to continue in the same vein will do nothing to improve the lives of the Scottish people.

Bob MacDougall, Oxhill, Stirlingshire

Food for thought

It is an avoidable part of Scotland’s disgrace, as part of one of the richest countries in the world however you count it, that more than a quarter of our country’s children are living in poverty. The consequences vary from hungry children doing less well in school to bad teeth, stunted growth and petty crime.

MSPs could immediately and simply make a big difference to the added impact of the increasing cost-of-living crisis – and for the long-term benefit to our society – by making available free and nutritious school meals for all pupils.

Healthier pupils will have learnt one way of how not to become expensive NHS patients. It could also be an integrated part of classes and include the science or biology of nutrition.

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Picking on SNP

The volume of crocodile tears gushing from the eyes of those opposed to the SNP and to the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future could fill more than a bathtub.

While sleaze abounds at Westminster, with billions poured into the grateful pockets of Tory donors, cronies and fraudsters during a devastating pandemic, opposition politicians and their supporters have focused their attentions on the internal finances of a party they would happily see vaporised.

Those who have persistently spouted that the SNP should forget about the party’s core aspiration of independence and concentrate on matters like the cost of living crisis and the NHS backlog (both considerably exacerbated, if not caused by, the misguided actions of government at Westminster), now seemingly spend the bulk of their time speaking to, or writing to, the media, speculating about the SNP’s internal financial difficulties and the possible demise of the whole independence movement.

It is shameful that some attempt to equate the social internationalist outlook of the SNP with the self-serving insular aims of UKIP and many in the Tory party. It is disrespectful to around half or more of the electorate of Scotland who genuinely support democratically progressing the future of their country to accuse them of harbouring “grievances”. It is hypocritical to accuse others of “causing division” in our society while arguing to sustain a system of governance under which the numbers relying on foodbanks and the numbers of excessively wealthy billionaires both continue to increase rapidly.

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The conquests of empire were not altruistic ventures and the constitutional arrangements that underpinned them must change so that we in Scotland can come together and navigate towards a fairer, more egalitarian and healthier vision for our children and for our world.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

That’s democracy

Life can be tough sometimes for those who wish that it was different. Fraser Grant is one such (Letters, 27 April). He would so like it if the junior elected body in Scotland – the parliament at Holyrood – was a sovereign body which could overrule the superior elected body, namely Parliament, at Westminster. Then, Holyrood could do all the things it wanted to, until, of course, it was told what it could – and could not – do by Brussels.

That is the elephant in the room, of course, because, if the stated will of the people of Scotland was ever ignored and Scotland broke away, any ideas about “independence” would be very, very short-lived, if ever they managed to overturn the EU’s rules on joining that body. The Scottish deficit is just far, far too large for that ever to happen, however, in the unlikely event that the UK ever broke up.

Mr Grant complains that our democratically elected Government at Westminster, representing us (and approved of by a sizeable majority of Scots, when they were asked in 2014), doesn’t do what the junior, local government body at Holyrood wants when the latter enacts laws which seek to break UK law.

Thank goodness we have the rule of law, when what the people of Scotland have decided is recognised and their wishes on matters such as the gender bill and the Deposit Return Scheme are recognised by central Government. That's democracy in action.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Worth the price?

Victor Clements comments on statements made in the past on the necessity of a Scottish Parliament other than for the benefit of politicians, journalists etc (Letters, 27 April). I wonder if I might take the question slightly further and ask if it is possible to compare the cost of Scottish Administration pre-devolution to the cost post devolution. Considering it has been necessary to introduce a higher tax rate, and various other expenditure, was devolution worth it for any perceived financial advantage?I do not include the emotion of self-governance, something which can have a higher value than mere money.

C Lowson, Fareham, Hants

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