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21/06/13 11:00

Criminal Justice Bill published

Range of improvements set out.

A raft of measures to improve the criminal justice system have been outlined in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, published today.

The bill takes forward a range of proposals to modernise and improve efficiency within the criminal justice system, responding to reviews by Lord Carloway and Sheriff Principal Bowen. The bill includes provisions that will abolish the requirement for corroboration in criminal trials alongside increases to the jury majority required for a guilty verdict to two-thirds of jurors.

The bill also raises the maximum sentence for handling knives and other offensive weapons from four to five years. This comes on the back of Recorded Crime Figures from earlier this week which show that crimes of handling an offensive weapon are at a 27-year low, down 29 per cent since last year, a reduction of 60 per cent since 2006-07.

Other key measures contained in the bill are:

  • Modernising the law around arrest and questioning of suspects
  • Improving the right to legal advice for individuals taken into police custody
  • Introducing a statutory aggravation for human trafficking
  • Strengthening court powers to impose sentences on those who commit offences while on early release
  • Establishing a Police Negotiating Board for Scotland for the negotiation of police officer pay and conditions

Also published today are responses and analysis to a consultation on whether additional safeguards would be needed if the requirement for corroboration is removed.

The consultation asked whether the not proven verdict should be abolished. We have taken on board views that now is not the right time to consider any further change in the light of other significant reforms being proposed. However, we have agreed in principle with the Scottish Law Commission that a review of this verdict should be carried out by them in a future work programme.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “This week’s recorded crime figures show that crime in Scotland is at a 39-year-low. We want to build on this impressive downward trend by ensuring that we have a justice system that is efficient and streamlined and that is what this bill will do.

“Taken together, these reforms aim to strike a balance between strengthening the powers available to police and prosecutors, while protecting the rights of the accused.

“I have made clear a number of times that I believe that the requirement for corroboration should be abolished as it can represent a barrier to justice. It is an outdated rule which can deny victims the opportunity to see those responsible for serious crimes brought to justice.

“Removing the need for corroboration represents a move towards focusing on the quality of evidence rather than quantity.

“We continue to take a zero tolerance approach towards knife crime, and this week’s figures show this is paying off. There will be no let-up in our efforts to rid Scotland’s streets of knives, and increasing the sentencing powers available to prosecutors will provide them with a valuable additional tool.

“This bill is another step forward in the Government’s Making Justice Work programme, which aims to create a justice system fit for to a modern democratic society – one that contributes positively to a flourishing Scotland, helping to create an inclusive and respectful society in which all people and communities live in safety and security, where individual and collective rights are supported and where disputes are resolved fairly and quickly.”

Notes to editors

The bill can be found at: www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/6725

Responses to the additional safeguards consultation: www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/7066

The responses to the Sheriff and Jury consultation: www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/1745

Consultation analysis for additional safeguards: www.scotland.gov.ukPublications/2013/06/1213/downloads