Law Society warns justice secretary to pay heed to presumption of innocence



Ken Dalling

The Law Society of Scotland has warned the justice secretary that proposed reforms to sexual offences cases must respect the presumption of innocence.

Keith Brown said yesterday he will not shy away from reforms that would raise the conviction rate in sex cases.

He said that plans for specialist sex crime courts without juries and the abolition of the not proven verdict, whose existence enables more acquittals according to its detractors, would go out for consultation.

Law Society president, Ken Dalling, responded that the society would support changes “providing the rights of an accused person are preserved”.

He added: “It will be essential to maintain fundamental principles in any plans to reform the criminal justice system – to recognise the presumption of innocence, maintain the rights of all those involved, and minimise the risk of a miscarriage of justice.

“In our view juries can be trusted to return the correct outcome based on the evidence presented and great care should be taken in changing a system on the basis that juries have been getting things wrong.”

Mr Dalling said the full implications of any changes would need to be considered.

“The not proven verdict, which has been the subject of much debate, is a long-standing part of the justice system and great care will be needed in considering any proposals for its removal,” he said.

“We need to be sure that any reforms would work in practice and not adversely impact on a fair and transparent system that upholds the rule of law and operates in the interests of justice.”

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