Majority of respondents back scrapping controversial not proven verdict

SNP pledged to review the current verdict system in Scotland after campaigners called for the abolition of not proven.

Majority of respondents back scrapping controversial not proven verdict in Scottish Government consultation iStock

A Scottish Government consultation on scrapping the not proven verdict has found a majority of respondents support scrapping it.

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

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

Following this, the SNP pledged to review the current verdict system, in recognition of “the strong case that can be made for abolition”.

A consultation published on Tuesday found that 62% from 194 answers were in favour of scrapping the controversial verdict.

Seven of the eight legal organisations that responded to the consultation wanted to keep the current system in place, while all advocacy groups and 10 academic respondents were in favour of a change to a two verdict system.

When asked what the two verdicts should be, 50% said juries should have the option to declare someone guilty or not guilty, while 41% believed the wording should be between proven and not proven – 9% said they would opt for another system.

Justice secretary Keith Brown said the Scottish Government would “give careful consideration” to the responses.

He said: “I am very grateful to all of those individuals and organisations who have taken the time to contribute their views on these matters, particularly those who have shared their personal experience of the justice system.

“We must now give careful consideration to the full range of responses received.

“The findings from this consultation analysis will be used along with a wide range of other information and evidence to inform the decision making process on any potential recommendations for reform.

“Any potential reforms will be considered alongside wider work including the outcome of the current consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system.”

Scottish conservative shadow cabinet secretary for justice Jamie Greene MSP, said: “The responses to the consultation are a positive step in the right direction. A majority of people support removing Scotland’s outdated not proven verdict, as I proposed in my Victims Law. 

“The Scottish Conservatives pledged to scrap this verdict almost two years ago, something supported by many victims organisations, and the pressure is now on the SNP to deliver. 

“The debate around not proven has gone on for more than a century and it is time we saw this verdict from a bygone age end. All too often it lets down victims of crime and is used disproportionately in rape and sexual offence cases.

“Keith Brown must now urgently set out his plans and if he fails to do so then I will proceed with my own legislation to scrap the Not Proven verdict through parliament so that it happens one way or another.”

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