by Kate Thomson
Changes in Scots Law were proposed this morning by Lord Carloway in a review of the country’s criminal justice system.
He said the proposals “re-cast” the legal system for the 21st century.
Scot’s law has long been criticised for being dogmatic in treatment of suspects’ rights. As it stands, suspects do not have the right to a lawyer immediately when they are arrested and police can question them without a lawyer present.
The Calloway Proposals would change this. For defence lawyers, this is a long awaited prospect.
A defence solicitor at the High Court said: “People in custody are in an uncomfortable and frightening situation and should be give access to legal advice.”
Yet some proposals were more controversial. Lord Carloway advised dropping the current law which requires two corroboratory pieces of evidence as proof in a trial. This would potentially make cases easier to prove.
A defence advocate at Edinburgh High court, who wished to remain unnamed, said: “It is an outrage that this is being introduced at a time when advances in forensic science should make it easier for corroboration to be provided.” He also warned that the proposals would allow people with grudges and vendettas to bring charges against people. “It would allow people to be convicted on one piece of evidence which is a charter for accusations to be made through the courts through malice and ill will,” he said.
There is also a worry that control is being taken away from the Scottish government’s long-standing legal independence. “I think it’s an attack on one of the foundations of Scots criminal law,” said the advocate.
He added that discussion was too fixated on the proposals themselves and ignored the importance of the defendant’s human rights.
The fiscals office for prosecution also commented on the proposals. “It will be deeply interesting for developments in the future. It’s difficult to say until we’ve had a good look at it,” said a spokesperson.
The review also advocates speeding up the trial process, requiring suspects to be brought before the courts within 36 hours. At the moment, suspects arrested on Friday evening can be held over the weekend for more than 48 hours.