One of the things you will have noticed from time to time, is that I have blogged on the fact that the Scottish National Party in Government don’t do Law well.
Kenny MacAskill was arguably the worst Justice Secretary in the history of the Scottish Parliament, he was Alex Salmond’s pal, this is the criteria it seems for holding Ministerial office.
Some time ago, during the Scottish referendum campaign, the SNP came up with what they thought was a ‘whizz bang’ idea to try and capture the women’s vote.
Plans to abolish corroboration in criminal trials, so in effect, this was akin to a return to the days of ‘witch craft’ trials. The Nationalists used as their justification emotive cases such as rape.
Rape is a truly awful crime; the victims of such abuse need our help, our sympathy and a justice system that is fit for purpose. The SNP highlighted as their reason the woeful conviction rates as they sought to lower the bar for evidence. No justice system can function properly were there is not a level playing field, we expect and demand that one of the cornerstones of a democratic society is justice.
I blogged that Scottish Government plans to abolish corroboration were utterly wrong some time ago, if you google my name and corroboration, you can read previous articles or click on my article of October 2012.
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And you can’t have failed to notice that on all the major issues that Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon got wrong, George Laird got it absolutely right.
Now, the Scottish Government has been forced to do another U-turn.
Apparently, they have managed to get George Laird, yet again, after several years; you see it takes the SNP years to get to the correct decision which takes me a few minutes.
Anyone who has an interest in human rights can plainly see how wrong it was for the SNP to embark on this course of action.
However, I am not welcoming the decision by Kenny MacAskill’s replacement Michael Matheson because I think this U turn is a temporary measure, to get them over this election and the subsequent one in 2016.
Corroboration is a basic safeguard of Scots Law should be retained, although the SNP farmed out the idea to Lord Bonomy, a High Court judge who did a study, he has came back with a series of proposed checks and balances to support people accused of crime.
I want you to think of now of the ‘Cadder Case’, in this case, the Scottish Government had to be forced by the UK Supreme Court to reinstate an accused person’s human rights to a fair trial after an accuse was denied access to legal representation.
Human rights cannot be replaced by ‘gifts’ from the Crown Office dressed up as safeguards. Not unsurprisingly that case was found against the Scottish Government, it seems that ‘who pays the piper calls the tune’ as famously said by Kenny MacAskill holds no sway in justice.
Lord Bonomy has interestingly said the corroboration rule should be preserved for cases where the accused as confessed or where evidence is hearsay.
The way that human rights work regarding a fair trial is that accused people have access to the same rights. If people have more rights than others, then plainly that is wrong, it would not be a surprise if this measure was adopted that a person found guilty could appeal that a miscarriage of justice occurred because they were afforded the same rights as others.
I have served on a jury, I did my duty, the person on trial was guilty, and he got sentenced for stabbing someone in the face with a weapon. At the end of the trial, a fellow jury member said to me, ‘you were right’. I told him, ‘we all were right’; I was just the one who prepared to stand up’. Although the jury members all felt he was guilty, they were reluctant to vote that way in case the person was sent to prison. I told them, we are not here to send people to prison, we are here to ensure justice is done, the judge will determine what sentence is required. At the end of the trial, it transpired that the person had a history of violence that stretched into several pages.
Many justice insiders believe it is not the rule of corroboration that prevents convictions for rape and other crimes committed in private, but the reluctance of juries to convict, my story bears this belief out. Sending people to prison isn’t a nice thing to do but society has to be protected from dangerous people.
Matheson told Holyrood:
"The issues Lord Bonomy raises are of crucial importance, and we should take the time to consider them fully. The Scottish Government will look at Lord Bonomy's detailed recommendations as a package, alongside the corroboration requirement itself, and form a view on the best way forward."
Alistair Morris, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said:
"Lord Bonomy is recommending measures which could improve the criminal justice system whether or not the corroboration requirement is abolished. The Law Society strongly believed that abolishing the requirement for corroboration in isolation without a full review of its role in our criminal justice system would lead to an increased risk of miscarriages of justice."
This also tallies with what a serving Sheriff said to me some time ago when discussing this issue, they also said that women would see though this gimmick by the SNP to garner votes for independence.
The abolition of corroboration will now be removed from the Criminal Justice Act passed last year.
However, despite this, I believe that this issue will return if the SNP get majority government in 2016.
And when it does, the fight will simply start back over again.
The Campaign for Human Rights at