Spousal Witnesses (Compellability)

Part of Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 28 June 2007.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 11:40, 28 June 2007

Absolutely. That is one of the reasons why the previous Administration was rather despondent at the failure to receive sufficient responses. Nevertheless, this is a matter that we are happy to consider.

I agree that there could be problems if we made the spouse compellable in every situation. Also, we live in a society that is changing and we must balance this issue with other competing legislative claims. However, I have sympathy with the point that Ms Eadie makes. The primary duty of a parent is to protect their child from harm, irrespective of who has perpetrated the harm. There is something manifestly wrong and unjust when somebody marries to evade their responsibility. That is an area that we will consider. One of the options that was consulted on—as Ms Eadie correctly states—is the situation that exists south of the border. However, we do not have a blanket provision under which a spouse is not compellable, as we have opened it up to deal with domestic violence and other such matters.

We must consider how we protect our children. There is something manifestly wrong in someone seeking to evade justice by marrying the principal witness, whose principal duty should be to protect the child from harm.