Saturday, 10 May 2014

"Our justice system is not in safe hands"

[Today’s edition of The Herald carries an editorial which is highly critical of the performance of the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill.  It reads in part:]

The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, has few friends in the legal profession right now, not least because of his determination to abolish the centuries-old requirement of corroboration in rape cases. [RB: The proposal is to abolish the requirement of corroboration in all criminal cases, not just rape cases. The debate has been bedevilled by the concentration of the media and others on sexual offences.]

Now MSPs on the influential Holyrood Justice Committee have poured scorn on his handling of the merger of Scottish police forces. (...)

There is every indication that the Scottish Government has been seeking to sweep the problems of Police Scotland under the carpet so that they do not interfere with the referendum campaign.

However, the affair raises more troubling questions still about the handling of the justice brief by Mr MacAskill. His eye has not been on the ball. He is too keen on passionately promoting crowd-pleasing measures like the abolition of corroboration, which many lawyers and human rights campaigners fear could lead to miscarriages of justice. Mr MacAskill finally bowed to pressure last month and agreed a one-year review, which many hope will see corroboration reprieved. But even criticism from within his own party ranks has not shaken the Justice Secretary's dogmatic belief in this measure. (...)

Our justice system is not in safe hands. Mr MacAskill's headstrong and sometimes belligerent approach, most notably in his refusal to heed advice in the Lockerbie affair, is damaging the credibility of Scottish law. It is time that he moved on to another, less high profile, Cabinet position.

[I am baffled by the reference to Kenny MacAskill’s refusal to heed advice in the Lockerbie affair. If it is his release of Abdelbaset Megrahi that is being alluded to, there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr MacAskill refused to heed the advice of those whom it was his legal duty to consult.  In other aspects of the Lockerbie affair (eg the refusal to institute an independent inquiry, the refusal to make arrangements for the Justice for Megrahi allegations of criminality in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial to be investigated otherwise that by the very police service that, amongst others, was being accused) the just criticism of Kenny MacAskill is that he too slavishly followed advice (from the Crown Office -- its own personnel amongst those accused of criminality -- and from his departmental civil servants).]


  1. We still need somebody different in that job. I don't think MacAskill is malicious but he's way too sure of himself and he's listening to the wrong people. He's been in the job too long and it's past time for a change.

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