Thursday, November 22, 2007

World's End trial collapse sparks awaited review of Scots Law

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Crown Office seem to be of the opinion it's the law that needs reforming, rather than the culture of failure at the Crown Office which caused the likes of the World's End trial collapse ...

We have heard it all before ...

The Herald reports :

Review of Scottish law announced after World's End murder trial

A wide-ranging study of possible reforms to Scottish law is to be carried out by experts after the collapse of the World's End murder trial.

The group will look at the law relating to judicial rulings that can bring a case to an end without a jury verdict - as happened in the World's End case.

The study, announced by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, will also consider rights of appeal against such rulings.

The probeby the Scottish Law Commission will also look at the law on "double jeopardy" which in Scotland stops someone being tried twice for the same crime.

It will also study the law on admissibility of evidence of "bad character" or previous convictions.

And it will study the "Moorov" doctrine - the Scottish legal rule that in some circumstances where a person is accused of several offences, evidence on one offence can be treated as corroboration of another.

Many of these issues were raised in the public uproar which followed the collapse of the World's End trial earlier this year.

The trial of Angus Sinclair folded after the end of the prosecution case when the judge, Lord Clarke, ruled there was no case to answer.

Sinclair had been accused of the murders of teenagers Christine Eadie and Helen Scott 30 years ago.

The subsequent controversy saw a public row over judicial independence between Scotland's top judge, Lord Hamilton, and Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, who said there had been a strong enough case to convict Sinclair.

The Scottish Law Commission has been asked to report to the Scottish Government on judicial rulings and appeal rights by next summer, on double jeopardy "as early as practicable" in 2009, and the other issues later.

The minister said he hoped to turn the commission's eventual recommendations into law "at an early opportunity".

Mr MacAskill said: "Fairness for both the victim and the accused is at the heart of any good justice system.

"But so too is public confidence.

"Questions around Crown appeal rights, double jeopardy and previous convictions, though not new, were raised again after the trial for the World's End murders in September.

"Good government is about listening to those public and political concerns with a cool head."

The Scottish Government had already made clear it would reflect seriously on the balance between the rights of the accused and the ability of the Crown to prosecute in the public interest, the minister went on.

"That's why I believe we need the expertise of the Scottish Law Commission, with their strong track record of independent analysis and reform of Scots Law, to take on this work."

He continued: "It is no threat to our justice system to reappraise historic principles such as double jeopardy.

"It is to ensure that our law remains fit for purpose in the modern age."

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