Plans to scrap the ancient legal requirement for corroboration have been kicked into the long grass by Scotland’s Justice Secretary.
Despite having previously resisted calls to postpone the controversial proposals until after an expert group set up to examine additional safeguards has published its view, Kenny MacAskill relented to pressure from opposition parties.
The second stage of the Criminal Justice Bill will now only go forward after Lord Bonomy’s review group reports its recommendations next spring.
Mr MacAskill said: “When we announced the creation of Lord Bonomy’s review group in February, there were calls including from the Law Society and Faculty of Advocates for us to remove the corroboration reform from the bill and to bring forward a separate bill later in the session once Lord Bonomy had reported.
“That was not acceptable as it is one of the key reforms in the bill and is vital to improving the criminal justice system for vulnerable victims.
“However, we have also made clear our willingness to listen to constructive proposals in relation to this key legislation.
“That is why we gave careful consideration to and in the spirit of cooperation have accepted the suggestion from opposition members that stage two should commence after Lord Bonomy’s review has been completed.
“As the majority of the bill’s provisions were already due for implementation in 2015-2016, today’s move will have minimal impact on the overall timetable for this legislation, while allowing detailed and full scrutiny of the bill in its entirety and enabling any changes agreed in light of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations to be included.”
The first parliamentary debate on the issue was tightly whipped by the SNP, with the party securing a narrow victory to progress matters after an ill-tempered exchanged branded “unacceptable” by Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick.
Labour’s justice spokesman Graeme Pearson said: “This is a welcome U-turn.
“While we all support the need to help more victims of crime see justice done, we needed to see what would replace corroboration.”
Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes added: “This is a victory for common sense.”
Rape Crisis welcomed the Government’s commitment to ending corroboration.