Corroboration in Scots law

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The importance of corroboration is a unique feature of Scots criminal law.[1] A cornerstone of Scots law, the requirement for corroborating evidence means at least two different and independent sources of evidence are required in support of each crucial fact before a defendant can be convicted of a crime.[2] This means, for example, that an admission of guilt by the accused is insufficient evidence to convict in Scotland, because that evidence needs to be corroborated by another source. However, testimony from some experts, such as forensic medical examiners or doctors, is accepted by courts on the basis of the expert's report alone, therefore requiring no corroboration.


Corroboration had, in some way, already been established by the time the earliest Institutional Writers had begun to illustrate Scots criminal law. MacKenzie described the ‘singularity’ of witnesses, and their ‘contrariety’, as insufficient proof - subsequently repeated by Hume, ‘…no one shall in any case be convicted on the testimony of a single witness’.[3] A similar statement appears in Alison.[4] Corroboration can also be traced to Biblical sources. The New Testament stated, ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’[5] - although it is unlikely that the requirement is based solely from the bible. Corroboration also has origins in Roman law. The Code of Justinian read, ‘We plainly order that the evidence of only one witness shall not be taken’.[6] It has been suggested that at this time, the requirement was based on the distrust of juries - however, it is suggested that it was the mistrust of judges instead, which allowed corroboration to take root.[7]

Following the Cadder ruling in 2010, Lord Carloway was appointed to lead a review of the 'corroboration rule' - The Carloway Review. In this review, Lord Carloway gave the following proposal – the current requirement for corroboration in criminal cases should be abolished.

Corroboration broken down

If one person says, “this is what I intended by the action I took,” and his friend agrees that his actions could have looked like what they intended. Then it can be generally agreed that is what happened.

If one person says, this is what I meant by what I said,” and his friend agrees that was their understanding of what was meant. Then it can be generally agreed that is what was meant.

Think of this like backing up your mate in the playground no matter what they did or said

 Example of Corroboration.

First person walks in turns and looks back the way they had come; this allows a person to say I had a clear view of another person that enters later. Second person walks in and on some pretext starts shouting, suddenly raising arms in the air and shaking them, who notices if fists are open or closed when the eye is on the action of the arm; this can look threatening and causes added stress in already tense circumstances. This can provoke an already bad situation into violence and can be used when people need to justify their actions or their presence. We made a mistake but look what happened someone was assaulted. Later it can be said I had a clear view of the other person and my friend raised their arms in supplication or in surrender and can demonstrate this with arms raised slowly, hands open and palms out. This involves two people, is premeditated, threatening, causes fear and alarm and is also used to make corroboration work against anyone. Common line afterward whether you were baited or goaded you still did it. This works well if both people have authority and in a position where they are commonly accepted to be of good character. There is other variations on this and is often used to provoke criminal action where there has been no other disorderly conduct.

Field of study[edit]

As a legal system founded on civil law principles, evidence in Scots law is normally studied as a branch of procedural law.


  1. ^ Rose, Gareth (2 October 2011). "The corroboration rule, unique to Scots law". Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh). Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "Consultation issued on Scots law after Cadder ruling". BBC News Scotland. 2 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  3. ^ BD Hume, ii p.385 (241)
  4. ^ AJ Alison, Principles and Practice of the Criminal Law of Scotland, 1833, p.551
  5. ^ The New Testament, 2 Corinthians, 13 verse 1
  6. ^ XX Concerning Witnesses, Book IV, 334 AD
  7. ^ JH Langbein, Torture and the Law of Proof, p.6

See also[edit]

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