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Trials (Recovered Stolen Goods)

Volume 22: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1982

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what representations he has received about prosecuting authorities in Scotland retaining recovered stolen goods for the purpose of evidence at subsequent trials.

From time to time I receive representations from individuals about stolen property which is retained for prosecution purposes.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate the hardship that can be caused when vital domestic items are retained for a long time by the prosecuting authorities? With the increase in the technological capacity of the prosecuting authorities, not least the development of the camera, has not the time come for photographs to be produced in court rather than the items themselves?

From the many years that my hon. Friend practised in the High Court in Scotland I am sure that he is aware that the best evidence rule requires that on most occasions property that is at the centre of a court case must be produced. As my hon. Friend has indicated, if it is possible to secure defence agreement, it is desirable that photographs should be used instead of objects, or, if it is possible to reach agreement with the defence, even without photographs.

If individuals wish to have property returned to them pending a trial, they should approach the procurator fiscal, but it must be understood that they may be required to produce it again for the trial.