Lord Advocate hints at renewed attack on corroboration



James Wolffe QC

The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, has said corroboration could yet be scrapped.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Mr Wolffe explained the issue would be revisited as part of a “package of measures” for updating the criminal justice system.

“I’m very conscious of the role corroboration plays in the system and the impact it has on decision making in individual cases,” he said.

Mr Wolffe was previously Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, which remains opposed to removing the safeguard from Scots law.

In April 2015, the Scottish government announced it would allow more time for a report by Lord Bonomy on post-corroboration legal safeguards to be considered before taking further action on corroboration.

Mr Wolffe said: “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.”

He added that the proposals will probably be “much more ambitious”.

“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,” he said.

“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.

“Rape typically has one of the lowest conviction rates of any crime in Scotland.”

Current Dean of Faculty, Gordon Jackson QC, reiterated the Faculty’s opposition to abolition.

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 proposal will need to be very carefully considered.”