Call us today on 0141 552 9193
GLP News

News, Comment & Opinions on the latest legal stories

Glasgow Law Practice White

Practice made perfect

Creating a fair justice system

A package of proposals to overhaul Scots criminal law has been unveiled following a year-long independent review by the High Court Judge, Lord Carloway.

The Carloway Review was commissioned last year by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Lord Carloway’s Report follows an extensive research and consultation process, supported by a full time team and assisted by a Reference Group of practitioners and experts in the field of criminal law.

Under the changes recommended by Lord Carloway, the revised criminal justice system will start from a simplified, unitary system of arrest, on reasonable grounds for suspicion, and detention. An arrest will trigger a set of rights for the suspect securing access to a lawyer, with particular protections for child suspects and vulnerable adults, to ensure that any proceedings against the suspect constitute a fair trial. It will also entail a system in which a suspect being charged should be brought before the court within 36 hours of arrest.

Alongside this the police will have greater powers to conduct a structured investigation, with the ability to liberate a suspect on condition they return for later questioning, with other unnecessary constraints on questioning removed, subject to the supervision of the courts. This will give the police time to pursue further investigations other evidence such as phone records or DNA evidence.

Similarly, there will be a less rule-bound approach to the evidence gathered. Judges and juries should assess the quality and relevancy of evidence, free of the current restrictive rules and principles, such as the general requirement for corroboration, that belong to an earlier age and, as research has indicated, may now operate as an impediment to justice. And if a judicial decision at first instance is to be challenged, there will be a single, streamlined and well-regulated appeal process to follow, rather than the various and archaic procedures currently in place. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission will be reinforced as the final safeguard against miscarriages of justice.

Lord Carloway has acknowledged the potential impact the Report may have, saying:

“I do not underestimate the size of the steps I am recommending. However, I hope and trust that this Report will make a significant contribution to the development of a modern, fair, effective and distinctly Scottish criminal justice system for the future.”