changes to the law proposed following World’s End case

Proposals published today could see prosecutors in Scotland having the right to appeal the decision of a judge, when they decide to stop a case without the jury delivering a verdict.

This proposal follows the collapse of the World’s End case after the judge, Lord Clarke, ruled that the Crown had failed to supply sufficient evidence to allow for a conviction.  This could not be challanged by the Crown.  Following the collapse of this case the Lord Advocate made an unprecedent statement to the Scottish Parliament defending the Crown’s handling of the case and said that, had the option been available to her, she would have appealed Lord Clarke’s decision.

In November 2007, the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill MSP, asked the Scottish Law Commission to look at the issues surrounding the World’s End case.

The commission’s chairman, Lord Drummond Young, said:

The trial judge rightly has the power to bring the prosecution to an end where the Crown does not present sufficient evidence against the accused; but, at present, the trial judge’s decision cannot be reviewed.

In rare cases, this may result in a well-founded prosecution being wrongly dismissed and the accused person not being properly held to account.

We recommend, therefore, that the Crown should be able, with leave of the trial judge, to challenge a number of judicial rulings, including a ruling that there is no case to answer.

The Scottish Law Commission is also looking into the double jeopordy rule (the rule that means a suspect cannot be tried for the same crime twice).  They will report back on this issue next year.

Mr MacAskill welcomed the report, which sets out a draft bill to change the law.  Mr MacAskill

We are now giving careful consideration to the details of the report and its proposals for legislation.

The Scottish Government commissioned this report because a number of concerns have been expressed about these issues, not least following the World’s End case.

We took action quickly by asking the Scottish Law Commission to consider all the questions in their broad context and make any recommendations for reform as they see fit. We asked the SLC to respond swiftly, and they have done so.