Scottish Government seeks views over future of not proven verdict

Campaigners have called for the not proven verdict to be scrapped.

Scottish Government seeks views over future of not proven verdict iStock
The consultation will run until March 11 next year.

The Scottish Government is seeking to hear views over the future of the country’s not proven verdict.

Currently, Scotland has a three verdict system, with ‘not proven’ available in all criminal cases.

The legal implications of such a verdict are exactly the same as a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

However, the not proven verdict is not defined, and neither is the difference between the verdicts.

Campaigners have called for the not proven verdict to be scrapped, with Rape Crisis Scotland having stated that the verdict is used disproportionately in rape cases.

They say that a not proven verdict can prove to be just as distressing for the complainer in such cases as a not guilty verdict.

In April this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also indicated that it is time to consider ending the not proven verdict.

She told PA Media: “I do think it is time to look at the not proven verdict. The conviction rate for rape and sexual assault is shamefully low.

“And I think there is mounting evidence and increasingly strong arguments that the not proven verdict is a part of that. So I think it is something that it is time to look at.”

The consultation being launched by the Scottish Government will run until March 11 next year.

It will gather views from members of the public, the legal sector, third sector, and those with direct experience of the justice system.

As well as consulting on the not proven verdict, it will also consider jury size, the majority required for conviction and the requirement for corroboration.

Justice secretary Keith Brown said the Government has no settled view on potential next steps.

“It is vital that Scotland’s justice system is fair, transparent and meets the needs of modern society,” he said.  

“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.”