A controversial recommendation to abolish corroboration as a requirement in criminal prosecutions in Scotland has been welcomed by a charity that supports victims of rape.
Lord Carloway last week published a review of the criminal justice system and outlined more than 70 recommendations, including scrapping the historic need for corroboration, which requires there to be more than one piece of evidence bearing witness to a crime.
Scotland has a notoriously low rape conviction rate, which some campaigners have blamed on Scotland’s unique requirement of corroboration.
Sandy Brindley, national coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “We welcome the proposal from Lord Carloway to remove the requirement for corroboration. This requirement has a particular impact on sexual offences, which often take place in private.
“The current burden of proof for rape is significant – the Crown must prove and corroborate not only that intercourse took place and that the complainer did not consent, but also that the accused knew that the complainer did not consent.” In a letter to Holyrood, Brindley adds: “In the relatively common situation where there is little or no physical injury, corroborating the accused’s knowledge of the complainer’s lack of consent is a very significant hurdle.
“During a six-month period in 2010, 141 cases were reported to the National Sexual Crimes Unit where the accused was not put on petition (i.e. not prosecuted). The Crown Office considers that in 67 per cent of these cases there was a reasonable prospect of conviction.” But Shelagh McCall, of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said there would need to be other safeguards if corroboration was abolished.
She said: “There are concerns about abolishing corroboration without putting in place other safeguards as to the quality of evidence (such as exist in comparable jurisdictions). These safeguards operate to protect all those involved, not just the accused, as well as giving the public confidence in the integrity of the system of investigation and prosecution.”