SNP conference: ‘No direct entry to police’

Kenny MacAskill MSP addresses the SNP annual national conference in Perth. Picture: PA
Kenny MacAskill MSP addresses the SNP annual national conference in Perth. Picture: PA
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KENNY MacAskill ruled out supermarket managers getting direct entry into the highest ranks of Scotland’s police force when he spoke at the SNP conference.

In his speech in Perth, the Justice Secretary rejected the UK Government’s plans to appoint people to senior positions in Police Scotland without them ever having been a police constable.

The move south of the border has caused consternation amongst officers, who believe that police commanders should have operational experience.

Mr MacAskill said: “Down in England they are proposing direct entry to the Police Service. Senior officers will be recruited never having served as a Constable.

“Whether Inspector, Superintendent or even Chief Constable. In Scotland I want the assurance they’ve had 10 years’ Police experience. Not 10 years’ as a Supermarket Manager or financial consultant. Experience learned policing our communities. Experience that money can’t buy. We will not invoke direct entry.”

Mr MacAskill also warned the legal profession that he will go-ahead with his controversial plan to scrap corroboration.

At the Perth Concert Hall, Mr MacAskill defended his policy arguing that it would increase convictions for domestic abuse as well as rape.

Lawyers have criticised the proposal to abolish the historic rule of Scots Law, which requires at least two different and independent sources of evidence to bring a case.

The Scottish Government believes that the need for corrorboration makes it particularly difficult to prosecute rape cases, which are rarely witnessed.

Figures within the legal establishment have taken a different view, arguing that getting rid of corrorboration would actually make it more difficult to secure rape convictions.

The Faculty of Advocates has aruged that if there is no legal requirement for corroboration, there is a risk that police will not investigate with a view to finding corroborative evidence if it exists.

The Scottish Bar has suggested that a subsequent lack of corroboration could lead to acquittals. The police have rejected the accusation that they would not look for corroboration.

Mr MacAskill underlined his commitment to his policy saying that it would not just help rape victims.

“We need to address the historic anomaly of the routine requirement for corroboration,” Mr MacAskill said. “Those who suffer rape and other serious sexual assault are denied justice by it. But, it’s not just the victims of those horrendous sexual crimes but many others whether children or the elderly. Crimes committed without an eyewitness. And of course there is domestic abuse. Of the latest shameful statistics on domestic abuse, 10 per cent of crimes reported to the Crown couldn’t be prosecuted because of the lack of corroboration.”

Figures provided by the Scottish Government revealed that 26,859 charges were reported with a domestic abuse aggravator in 2011/12 and 2,674 were marked no action- insufficient admissable evidence.

And the following year (2012/13), there were 27,101 charges with 2,803 marked no action.

Mr MacAskill said the removal of the routine requirement for corroboration did not mean that anyone would be prosecuted on the say so of one individual, saying that there would be a need for supportive evidence.

He said there would be qualitative and quantitative test for prosecutions.

“The high standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt remains sacrosanct,” Mr MacAskill said.

“Yes. Some in the legal fraternity disagree. But laws are made by Parliament not one profession. This is about justice in our communities not a debate between learned legal friends. And that’s why – whist I listen respectfully to the legal profession – I also listen to the pleas of Victim Support Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Womens Aid. The representations made by Police Scotland and the comments of the Association of Police Superintendents in Scotland.

“They don’t partake in a legal debate. They mop up the blood and they wipe away the tears from victims who have suffered behind closed doors. They can console and they can comfort but they cannot currently provide access to justice.”

Mr MacAskill added: “The time has come to do what is right – to support the Lord Justice Clerk, and to get Scottish criminal law into the 21st century.”