JUDGES should have the power to refer jury verdicts which they regard as “perverse” to the High Court for review, according to the father of a stabbing victim.
Alan McLean, whose son Barry died of a stab wound in May 2011, has lodged a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling for judges to have the power to call in verdicts if they think the jury has come to an “irrational, unsupported or unbelievable” decision.
Sometimes the jury do not fully assess the information provided over the course of the trial.Alan McLean
Barry McLean, from Burntisland in Fife, left behind his partner Jennifer and seven-month-old son Connor when he died in May 2011.
His father said Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell was “very positive and supportive” about his petition, and he has also presented his ideas to Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland at an anti-knife crime seminar.
Mr McLean’s petition states: “In the trial regarding the death of our son, the jury failed to identify that murder or even culpable homicide had been committed and returned with an acquittal which allowed the accused to walk free from the High Court.
“The current system failed and allowed two charges to be dissolved without any safety precautions being in place.
“The judge operates on the basis of a ‘reasonable doubt’ about the jury’s verdict, the perverse acquittal provides a safety net for the judge, although the judge’s word is final on the law and the jury’s word is final on the facts.
“This process would only be used by the judge when he/she thinks that the verdict is not just simply wrong, but actually perverse and has the power to intervene and forward the case to the High Court of Judiciary.”
Mr McLean has produced a flow chart explaining how a verdict could be referred to the High Court, which could then order a retrial or uphold the verdict.
He said it provides “a safety net and clear route to be taken when the judge believes that the verdict delivered by the jury is fundamentally wrong, for example: irrational decision which is completely unsupported due to the amount of evidence provided by the Crown Prosecution Service and which has not included in the jury’s decision of the verdict to be delivered to the court”.
He added: “Sometimes the jury do not fully assess the information provided over the course of the trial, or there may be too much information which may cause confusion to jury member/s and lead to the wrong verdict being delivered to the court.
“The Justice & Social Affairs Research Unit has confirmed that both the Scottish Government and the Crown Office are not aware of any work which has been done in relation to the issue of perverse acquittal.”
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