Criminal Bar strongly against ’draconian’ proposed measures

31 Mar

SCOTLAND's criminal Advocates have voiced strong opposition to proposals, including  trials without juries, which the Scottish Parliament is considering because of the Coronavirus emergency.

The Scottish Criminal Bar Association (SCBA) says it recognises that measures, even if only temporary, need to be made.

However, the SCBA is against plans to extend time limits by six months and to have trials on the most serious charges heard  by judges or sheriffs sitting alone. It has also cautioned against relaxation of the rule about hearsay evidence.

Ronnie Renucci, QC, President of the SCBA, said: “The proposals in this Bill include attacks on principles that have been built over 600 years and are at the very cornerstone of Scotland’s criminal justice system and democratic tradition. Any changes, however temporary, should not erode important principles of our legal system which would have the effect of undermining or ignoring the citizen’s rights to justice. They should not at a stroke remove the fundamental principle of the right of those citizens charged with serious offences to a trial by a jury of their peers within a reasonable time.

“The SCBA believes that these draconian measures seeking to bring about seismic changes to our system of justice are premature, disproportionate and ill-advised. They are at best a knee-jerk reaction to an as yet unquantified problem instigated by panic or at worst, something far more sinister.

“For the Scottish Government to attempt to introduce them within one week of ‘lockdown’ is extremely concerning, especially when, to our knowledge, no such similar measures are being suggested or proposed down South or, indeed, elsewhere.”

The SCBA’s full response to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill can be seen here