Jury’s out on Scotland’s ‘not proven’ verdict

Keith Brown

The Scottish Government said on Monday that a consultation process seeking views on Scotland’s “Not Proven” verdict and related reforms has opened.

The consultation will run until March 11, 2022.

The consultation on Scotland’s three verdict system will gather opinions from the public as well as the legal sector, third sector, and those with direct experience of the justice system — fulfilling a key Programme for Government commitment.

The consultation also is considering jury size, the majority required for conviction and the requirement for corroboration.

In Scottish criminal trials there are three verdicts available: guilty, not guilty and not proven.

The not proven verdict is available in all criminal cases and the legal implications are exactly the same as a not guilty verdict.

However, there is no definition of the not proven verdict, nor of the difference between the not proven and not guilty verdicts.

The Scottish Government commissioned independent jury research — published in 2019 — which highlighted inconsistent views on the meaning and effect of the not proven verdict and how it differs from not guilty.

That research — followed by engagement with stakeholders across the country — has helped inform the consultation being launched.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “It is vital that Scotland’s justice system is fair, transparent and meets the needs of modern society.

“The Scottish Government recognises there are strong opinions surrounding the three verdict legal system – but that does not mean we should shy away from a detailed and extensive consultation on this unique aspect of our justice system.

“We will take an open and consultative approach to these complex matters and — as part of this consultation — seek to capture the views of a broad range of stakeholders including legal professionals, the third sector and those with lived experience of the system.

“This Government has no settled view on potential next steps and I want to listen to what consultees tell us before we weigh all the evidence and reach a decision.”