CORROBORATION could be ditched by Scottish courts as part of a bid to secure more convictions for rape, the country’s top prosecutor has revealed.
The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe, said the legal principle – which requires two separate pieces of evidence for prosecution – could be “revisited”.
Rape has one of the lowest conviction rates of any crime in Scotland. In 2015-16, the conviction rate for rape was 48 per cent, whereas the conviction rate for all crimes was recorded at 85 per cent.
The Scottish Government backed down from the move in 2015 to allow more time to consider a report by Lord Bonomy which looked at legal safeguards.
But Mr Wolff signalled today (Mon) that the controversial step is once again being closely examined as part of an “ambitious” new set of proposals.
He said: “Inevitably, as a prosecutor I’m very conscious of the role corroboration plays in the system and the impact it has on decision making in individual cases.
“That inevitably, is part of the context in which I could see us coming back to look again to see whether the system has the right checks and balances.”
He added: “Lord Bonomy has reported and the government is doing some further work.
“Once that work’s been done there’s potential for the issue to come back. It wouldn’t be right for me to commit the government on a particular position.
“The issue has not gone away. I think the question we will return to is, in light of all the work
Lord Bonomy has done, there’s a package of measures that would improve the criminal justice system.
“The key point is that these are sensitive, difficult and challenging cases to prosecute.
“Through the work that’s been done by the national sex crimes unit and the whole prosection service, victims should have confidence that we take these cases seriously. Where it’s the right thing to do, cases will be prosecuted vigorously.”
Sally Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said corroboration continues to be a “significant barrier to justice” for victims.
She said: “Corroboration is unique to Scotland and it is disproportionately impacts on rape cases because they often happen in private and it can be really difficult to corroborate not only lack of consent, but that the accused didn’t believe the victim was consenting.
“It’s a really high test and we think it’s a significant barrier to justice.”
But Gordon Jackson, the current dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said any moves towards scrapping corroboration would be a “mistake”.
He said: “I still think it would be a mistake to abolish corroboration, but an even bigger mistake to do it in isolation.
“If that change is to be made, it will require, as I think the Scottish Government now knows, a number of other changes.
“Certainly, any such proposals will need to be very carefully considered.”
Lord Bonomy’s report recommendations include requirements that police film all interviews with suspects, and that the practice of dock identification – when the accused is identified as the perpetrator in court