MSPs quiz witnesses on the abolition of corroboration

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Lily Greenan, manager of Scottish Women's Aid told the Justice Committee abolition of the absolute requirement for corroboration could make it easier to bring cases of domestic abuse and sex crimes to court, on 3 December 2013.

The Criminal Justice Bill contains proposals to end the centuries-old requirement for corroboration in court cases.

Corroboration is the need for evidence in criminal trials to come from two sources.

Ms Greenan described one case in which a badly beaten woman fled from her home into the street "with her clothes hanging off her".

It could not be prosecuted because there was no corroboration that her alleged attacker was there at the time.

Ms Greenan said: "If a woman has been so badly beaten that her neighbours fear for her life, who runs into the street with her clothes hanging off her... is not able to get into court because there is no corroboration that it was him who did it this time, then we have something wrong with our system.

"That's the kind of situation we want to address. That's what happened. It couldn't go to court because there was insufficient corroboration in relation to his presence in the house at the time of the assault."

However Ms Greenan went on to tell MSPs about cases of violence against women in which attitudes and prejudices sometimes had more impact on the verdict than the actual evidence.

"We're not usually talking about evidence as being the driving force for whether or not there's a conviction. We're talking about attitudes, we're talking about assumptions and we're talking about prejudice," she said.

"So the notion that removing the requirement for corroboration is in any way going to change that situation is a false notion."

That was echoed by Tony Kelly of law reform and human rights organisation JUSTICE Scotland, who argued that abolishing corroboration would not necessarily improve the "appalling" conviction rate for crimes such as rape.

Shelagh McCall from the Scottish Human Rights Commission; Alan McCloskey from Victim Support Scotland and Sandie Barton from Rape Crisis Scotland also gave evidence.

The Committee finally considered the following piece of minor legislation Criminal Legal Aid (Scotland) (Fees) Amendment Regulations 2013.

The first evidence session of the Justice Committee, where police representatives gave evidence can be seen below:

Justice Committee 1

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