Consultation finds support for scrapping Scotland's controversial not proven verdict

A consultation has found support for scrapping Scotland’s controversial not proven verdict.

Some 62 per cent of 200 respondents backed moving to a two-verdict system in criminal cases, with just 37 per cent favouring the status quo.

Scotland’s distinctive not proven verdict has long been controversial, with jury research previously highlighting confusion about its meaning and effect.

Elsewhere, the consultation found a higher number of respondents supported keeping Scotland’s corroboration rule than backed reforming or abolishing it.

The High Court in Edinburgh

Corroboration – which requires at least two independent sources of evidence for someone to be convicted of a crime – has also proved controversial in the past.

It is seen as a potential barrier in rape, sexual offence and domestic abuse cases.

The Scottish Government launched a consultation on not proven and corroboration as part of its recent programme for government.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “I am very grateful to all of those individuals and organisations who have taken the time to contribute their views on these matters, particularly those who have shared their personal experience of the justice system.

“We must now give careful consideration to the full range of responses received.

"The findings from this consultation analysis will be used along with a wide range of other information and evidence to inform the decision making process on any potential recommendations for reform.

“Any potential reforms will be considered alongside wider work including the outcome of the current consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system.”

The consultation saw 21 responses from organisations and 179 from individuals.

Higher numbers of legal organisations (seven out of eight), those who have been a juror in a criminal trial (19 out of 30) and those who have been charged with a crime (five out of six) supported keeping the three verdicts currently available.

Under a two-verdict system, 50 per cent of respondents favoured guilty and not guilty, compared to 41 per cent who supported proven and not proven.

A majority of respondents (58 per cent) supported jury size remaining at 15 jurors.

Meanwhile, some 52 per cent backed the use of a qualified majority – meaning a set number of jurors would have to be in favour of a guilty verdict before it could be returned.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene said the responses were “a positive step in the right direction”.

He said: “A majority of people support removing Scotland’s outdated not proven verdict, as I proposed in my Victims Law.

“The Scottish Conservatives pledged to scrap this verdict almost two years ago, something supported by many victims organisations, and the pressure is now on the SNP to deliver.

“The debate around not proven has gone on for more than a century and it is time we saw this verdict from a bygone age end.

"All too often it lets down victims of crime and is used disproportionately in rape and sexual offence cases.

“Keith Brown must now urgently set out his plans and if he fails to do so then I will proceed with my own legislation to scrap the not proven verdict through parliament so that it happens one way or another.”

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