Martin Hannan: Legal old guard days numbered

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It was back in November that Lord Gill, the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General, told the Scottish Parliament’s justice system that he and every other Scottish judge, bar one, were opposed to the scrapping of the corroboration rule in criminal prosecutions.

Corroboration is the centuries-old rule that no-one can be convicted on a single piece of evidence. Except, of course, if you are caught by a speed camera.

The corroboration rule helped stop the prosecuting authorities and police easily “fitting-up” a suspect. Thanks to the rule, just because the police said you were guilty, didn’t mean that you were.

The trouble is that the rule, like so much of our creaking, antiquated and outmoded legal system, is out of date.

That’s why I say that when the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill presently going through Holyrood is eventually passed – and it will be – we will have a golden opportunity to sweep away the crumbling edifice that is Scots law and start again with new people in charge.

As usual, when a government of any persuasion proposes changes to the law which will mean that judges will have to work harder, up sprang their lordships to cry nay.

I would have said this reaction was typical of the Edinburgh legal establishment, except that I know Lord Gill hails from Glasgow and thankfully a few more of the Senators of the College of Justice, to give their lordships their Sunday name, are not part of the Edinburgh public school elite.

As an SNP member, and as someone who knows Kenny MacAskill, I can say with certainty that he thought long and hard over the plan to scrap corroboration, which Lord Carloway, for one, said had “no place in a modern legal system”.

I don’t think MacAskill really thought through all the consequences at first, but he has now, and I am delighted that the government is considering putting other safeguards in place, such as moving to a system whereby two-thirds of a jury, ten out of 15 members, must declare for guilt instead of a simple majority as at present.

That excellent judge Lord Bonomy will bring forward more safeguards with his review. But make no mistake, this law will go through, and when it does, their lordships will have to comply with it.

That is why I say that when the law is passed and takes effect, Lord Gill, below, must resign, as must all other judges who have opposed the introduction of non-corroboration.

Their position will become untenable that day, because they will simply not be trusted to carry out the law of the land.

Even if they do comply fully, the taint of suspicion will still attach to their words in every case where corroboration is an issue.

Judges must be seen to be fair and impartial, and any defendant in any case where corroboration is a material consideration will simply have to point at the judge and say “how can you trust him or her to implement a law they so disagreed with?”

They must all do the honourable thing and resign, and then we can get good lawyers on the benches who will work hard to help build a modern Scottish legal system that actually works for the people.

We’ll rue betrayal of common sense

Last week saw the end of a long experiment of which Edinburgh should have been proud, not ashamed.

Thanks mainly to Police Scotland’s decision to make it an issue, the city’s sauna trade – okay, the legalised brothel industry – was hammered.

No more licences will be issued for saunas by the council’s regulatory committee, the effect of which will be to drive sex workers out of safe premises and into the back streets.

The council has a back-up plan, as convener Gavin Barrie said: “Our health, social care and housing committee will scrutinise the harm reduction work under way across the various agencies working in partnership.”

Utter tosh. When some poor woman is attacked on the streets, guess who’ll be blamed, councillor?

Mourning Ian is celebration of life

The funeral of Ian Morrison of West Linton, who was very well known in Edinburgh, took place at Mortonhall Crematorium on Friday. It may seem strange to say so, but it was one of the most uplifting such ceremonies I’ve ever attended because it fully celebrated Ian’s life, including his fight to get the drugs that prolonged his life after he contracted cancer.

There are no words of mine that can alleviate the pain in which his wife, Jacqui, and his family are now left, but this I will say: Ian will never be forgotten, not by anyone who knew him.

Thrashing has to be a lesson

ANYONE looking for reasons why Scotland was thrashed in the Calcutta Cup match – and truly, England could and should have won by 40 – might look at the team sheets

Selling’s easy peasy

I was told selling a house was difficult. Well, thanks to Warners, and particularly Angela McFarlane, it was all very quick and easy. I recommend them very highly..

England gave the names as you might expect, but Scotland’s read: Hogg, Stuart; Seymour, Tommy; etc. Proof, if it were needed, that the SRU is stuck in a time warp.