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Further delay to corroboration abolition 22/04/2015 Plans to end the requirement for corroboration in criminal trials have been put on hold, says the Scottish Government

Further delay to corroboration abolition 

The Scottish Government has announced that it will not proceed with the proposal to end the requirement for corroboration in criminal trials in Scotland during the current Parliament, following the publication of an independent report by Lord Bonomy’s Post-corroboration Safeguards Review group.

The complexity of the recommendations contained in the report mean that further consideration is needed and there is insufficient time to do this before the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill continues its passage through Parliament, said Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. The recommendations include suggestions that might be worth taking forward independent of corroboration reform.

“The issues Lord Bonomy raises are of crucial importance, and we should take the time to consider them fully,” explained the Justice Secretary, in a statement to the Scottish Parliament.

“Removing the corroboration provisions from the Criminal Justice Bill will allow the other provisions in the Bill to go forward as soon as Parliamentary timetables permit. These include important reforms to police procedures and practice, as well as strengthening rights of legal access for suspects, and improvements to sheriff and jury trials,” he said. “The Scottish Government still believes that there is a case to be made for the abolition of the corroboration requirement but we will now consider whether to proceed with it, as part of a wider package, in the next session of Parliament.”

John Scott QC, Vice President of the Society of Solicitor Advocates, commented on this significant development:

We very much welcome this pause at the hand of the Cabinet Secretary. For centuries, corroboration has been the cornerstone of the right to a fair trial in Scotland. The Society of Solicitor Advocates has joined others, within and outwith the profession, in opposing its abolition. We have also contributed to the Bonomy Review on additional safeguards, some of which make sense even if corroboration remains. It is right that, if corroboration is still to be considered for abolition, the full range of safeguards for a fair trial should be reviewed and appropriate steps taken to ensure no increase in miscarriages of justice.

We welcome the Bonomy Report's recommendation of research into jury reasoning and decision-making.

It is vital that any changes are based on a proper understanding of the system as it is at the moment - what works and what does not. We accept that no system can remain unchanged forever simply on the basis of tradition, but any changes should be part of efforts to improve every aspect of justice - from the basic right of access to justice, to the equally important right to a fair trial.

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