Douglas Ross commits to 'scrapping' not proven verdict if Scottish Conservatives win 2021 Holyrood election
The Scottish Conservatives will scrap the controversial ‘not proven’ verdict in criminal trials if they win the Scottish Parliament election in 2021, their leader Douglas Ross has said.
The MP for Moray has said that his party is “fully committed” to scrapping the verdict and will include the commitment in its manifesto for the Holyrood election in May.
He will add that it is time for Scotland to provide jurors with a “clear choice” around guilt.
Commitment to scrapping the verdict will become a key pledge in the Scottish Conservative’s attack on what it labels ‘soft touch justice’ presided over by the SNP.
Speaking as the conference began, he said: “We are fully committed to scrapping not proven. Many people who have suffered the horror of serious crime have had their pain compounded by this damaging and confusing verdict.
"Having examined this issue in detail, and having listened to victims, it clearly serves no useful purpose in a modern justice system.
"The time is right for Scotland to give jurors the clear choice between guilty and not guilty."
The move has been backed by the father of murdered teenager Amanda Duffy, who was killed in 1992.
Francis Auld was tried for the murder of the 19-year-old but was acquitted after the jury found the case against him not proven.
Joe Duffy said: “Myself and my family are delighted the Scottish Conservatives are including a proposed change to the three-verdict system in their manifesto and advocating to end the contentious not proven verdict.
“The return of a not proven verdict exacerbates the trauma and loss for victims and their families. It is misunderstood, unnecessary and out of date.
“We sincerely hope there will be cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament for this proposal for the benefit of everyone affected by the criminal justice system.”
A woman known as Miss M, who successfully sued the man cleared of raping her for damages in the civil courts, also welcomed the commitment.
She said: “I began the End Not Proven campaign in collaboration with Rape Crisis Scotland two years ago this week.
“I am pleased to see political parties recognising this issue. I have met with each party and expressed my concerns to the First Minister and hope to see continued support.
“We have the evidence and Scotland’s survivors and their families have spoken out. It’s time to end the use of not proven – a misunderstood acquittal verdict which causes untold damage.”
In 2019, a two-year Scottish Jury Research study found that scrapping the ‘not proven’ verdict could lead juries to convict in finely balanced trials, and found that there was inconsistent views on the meaning of ‘not proven’ and how it differs from ‘not guilty’.
‘Not proven’ is a central tenet used when innocence may not be clear, but the facts of the case have not been proved by the prosecution.
The verdict predates ‘not guilty’ and is unique to the Scottish criminal justice system.
It has the same legal effect as a not guilty verdict and means that the accused is acquitted and is innocent in the eyes of the law.
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