'Numpty' MSPs Taking Justice Back to Middle Ages, Warns Top Lawyer

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Byline: Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor

THE SNP is trying to 'take Scots criminal law back into the Middle Ages,' a leading lawyer has claimed.

Solicitor advocate Alistair Bonnington branded MSPs 'numpties' for changing the law to allow re-trials of people who have been cleared of crimes.

He said the 'disreputable' double jeopardy reforms could also allow prosecutors to pursue 'blood feud' vendettas against individuals.

The changes allow the Crown to lobby for someone acquitted of a crime to be re-indicted in certain cases. This can happen if, for example, fresh evidence comes to light. Mr Bonnington also condemned moves to abolish corroboration - the centuries-old requirement for evidence to be backed up by two separate sources.

Meanwhile, a police chief and a top QC also joined the attack on the SNP's legal reform agenda.

The double jeopardy reforms face their first major test next week when prosecutors will apply to have Angus Sinclair's acquittal for the World's End murders set aside.

Next Tuesday, at the High Court in Edinburgh, the Crown will lobby senior judges to re-indict Sinclair following his acquittal in 2007 over the murders of teenagers Christine Eadie and Helen Scott in 1977.

Commenting on the double jeopardy reforms, Mr Bonnington, a former Honorary Professor of Law at Glasgow University, said that MSPs were 'numpties'.

He added: 'They approach criminal law from the "victim perspective" - a disreputable philosophy which is in essence the same as the ancient concept of a blood feud.' A major review of Scots criminal law by Lord Carloway last year called for the requirement for corroboration in prosecutions to be abolished, with the author describing it as 'an archaic rule'.

The Scottish Government has signalled that it intends to press ahead with ending the system. But Mr Bonnington said Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was 'daft' to introduce the proposal and added: 'All judges and sheriffs are against it. …