Holyrood committee to start its scrutiny of ‘significant’ justice reforms

The Bill could bring significant changes including the end of the not proven verdict.

Holyrood committee to start its scrutiny of Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill Scottish Parliament TV

A Holyrood committee is to start its scrutiny of major reforms to Scotland’s justice system, which could see the not proven verdict scrapped.

That is one of the changes included in the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill, which also proposes establishing a pilot project that could see rape accused tried before a judge alone instead of before a jury.

The legislation, put forward by the Scottish Government, also sets out to reduce the number of people required on a jury from 15 to 12.

But the Bill would require at least two thirds of jurors to back a guilty verdict before someone could be convicted, unlike the current system where a simple majority of those on the jury is required.

With a number of other changes set out in the legislation, MSPs on the Criminal Justice Committee are expected to spend several months hearing from relevant organisations – with the committee also expected to hear from victims themselves.

Justice secretary Angela Constance, who has already said the “landmark” legislation will “put victims and witnesses at the heart of the justice system”, will be the first to give evidence about the measures.

Speaking ahead of the committee meeting, convener Audrey Nicoll said: “This Bill is a major piece of legislation containing a number of significant provisions and, as a committee, we will take time to scrutinise it in a balanced and thorough manner.

“We want to ensure that all sides of the arguments have a chance to give their views and debate the merits of the Bill.

“We also want to ensure that all aspects of the Bill are given proper scrutiny, so we have decided to take a phased approach, over several months, to ensure that ample time is devoted to each part of this Bill.”

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