HM Advocate v Ashrif: 1988

The accused had sought to recover the previous convictions of the complainant not from the prosecution, but from the Scottish Criminal Record Office.
Held: The appeal court came down firmly against permitting defence agents to recover the previous convictions of Crown witnesses: ‘In my opinion, there are very sound reasons why a diligence in these terms should not be granted. If access is to be given to such criminal records of a witness, it could not be confined to solicitors acting for accused persons but would also be available to accused persons who were appearing on their own behalf. This might then result in an accused getting full information of all offences of which the witness had been convicted even though these were not relevant and even though they had occurred many years before. If that were to be the position, the result might well be that members of the public would be slow to come forward to give evidence if they knew that their past record was liable to become public and in particular to be disclosed to an accused person to whom they might be known. This difficulty was recognised by the Thomson Committee who stated their ultimate conclusion in para 27.07 as follows: ‘While we have some sympathy with the view that the defence should be able to use previous convictions in the same way as the Crown, bearing in mind the general public interest, we are not persuaded that it is desirable that the previous convictions of witnesses should be disclosed to the accused person or his solicitor’.’


Lord Justice Clerk (Ross)


1988 SLT 567



Cited by:

Not FollowedMaan Petitioner 2001
The accused sought to defend a charge on indictment of assault on a special defence of self-defence and gave notice of an intention to attack the character of the complainer and the other two Crown witnesses. He sought the previous convictions of . .
CitedHolland v Her Majesty’s Advocate (Devolution) PC 11-May-2005
The defendant appealed his convictions for robbery. He had been subject to a dock identification, and he complained that the prosecution had failed in its duties of disclosure.
Held: The combination of several failings meant that the defendant . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.225525