England: Barrister warns against introducing corroboration to criminal law

The use of corroboration in the English criminal justice system should be resisted, the new chairwoman of the Bar Council has said.

Ministers south of the border are understood to be considering the use of the Scottish evidential requirement but Amanda Pinto QC has warned against its use in rape trials.

“We’ve rightly come away from requiring corroboration [in England and Wales],” she says. “Because if you require corroboration in something that is typically between two people, then you restrict access for justice for some victims entirely.”

Speaking to The Times, the new chairwoman also cast doubt on the value of alleged rape victims using screens in court.

She said: “There is evidence to suggest that something on a screen is less real to the recipients and more like television than real life. It is scientifically proven that people react to [images on screen] differently because you think it is not real in the same way as somebody [speaking in person]. Video interviews are perceived differently than if they are able to pick up the signs, which can be very tiny [in a face-to-face] interview.”

Ms Pinto said she worries that people watching videolink evidence “can concentrate on the wrong things”.

“When you’re asked a question over a screen you might not have the same attention and therefore might not come across as being sincere,” she says. “That is nothing to do with the witness — or indeed the person asking the questions, or indeed the jury or the judge.”

The QC also said Parliament must not take up the demands of some who would like juries abolished in rape trials.

“Juries are really good arbiters of what the evidence shows,” she said.

“Rape cases are particularly difficult because it is one person’s word against another’s.”