Publication - Consultation paper

The not proven verdict and related reforms: consultation

Published: 13 Dec 2021
From:
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans
Directorate:
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Law and order
ISBN:
9781802017793

This consultation seeks views on the three verdict system in Scottish criminal trials and if the not proven verdict were to be abolished, whether any accompanying reforms would be necessary to other aspects of the criminal justice system.

The not proven verdict and related reforms: consultation
Annex A: Summary of Consultation Questions

Annex A: Summary of Consultation Questions

If you have experience of jury duty and this has contributed to forming your views on these issues, please avoid giving any specific details of anything that took place on the juries you served on. This is because according to section 8(1) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, “it is a contempt of court to obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their deliberations in any legal proceedings”.

You are encouraged to set out your views on these important issues and we recognise that your personal experience on a jury may have contributed to shaping those views. However, we recommend that you answer these consultation questions in general terms and do not disclose any details of the cases you decided or anything else specific that took place in any juries you have served on.

The Not Proven Verdict

Question 1: Which of the following best reflects your view on how many verdicts should be available in criminal trials in Scotland?

  • Scotland should keep all three verdicts currently available
  • Scotland should change to a two verdict system

Please give reasons for your answer:

Question 2: If Scotland changes to a two verdict system, which of the following should the two verdicts be?

  • Guilty and not guilty
  • Proven and not proven
  • Other

Please give reasons for your answer. If you have selected “other” please state what you think the two verdicts should be called:

Question 3: If Scotland keeps its three verdict system, how could the not proven verdict be defined, in order to help all people including jurors, complainers, accused and the public to better understand it?

Question 4: Below are some situations where it has been suggested a jury might return a not proven verdict. How appropriate or inappropriate do you feel it is to return a not proven verdict for each of these reasons?

1 – Appropriate

2 – Inappropriate

3 – Don’t know

  • The jury returns a not proven verdict because they believe the person is guilty, but the evidence did not prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • The jury returns a not proven verdict because they believe the case has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt, but they wish to publically note some doubt or misgiving about the accused person.
  • The jury returns a not proven verdict because they believe the case has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt, but they wish to indicate to complainers and/or witnesses that they believe their testimony.
  • The jury returns a not proven verdict as a compromise, in order to reach agreement between jurors who think the right verdict should be guilty and others who think it should be not guilty.

Question 5: Do you believe that the not proven verdict acts as a safeguard that reduces the risk of wrongful conviction?

Yes/No/Unsure

Please give reasons for your answer and explain how you think it does or does not operate to prevent wrongful convictions.

Question 6: Do you believe that there is more stigma for those who are acquitted with a not proven verdict compared to those acquitted with a not guilty verdict? Yes/No/Unsure

Please give reasons for your answer:

Question 7: Do you believe that the not proven verdict can cause particular trauma to victims of crime and their families?

Yes/No

Please give reasons for your answer:

Jury Size

Question 8: Which of the following best reflects your view on jury size in Scotland?

If Scotland changes to a two verdict system:

  • Jury size should stay at 15 jurors
  • Juries should change to 12 jurors
  • Juries should change to some other size

If you selected “some other size”, please state how many people you think this should be: Please give reasons for your answer including any other changes you feel would be required, such as to the majority required for conviction or the minimum number of jurors required for the trial to continue:

Jury Majority

Question 9: Which of the following best reflects your view on the majority required for a jury to return a verdict in Scotland?

If Scotland changes to a two verdict system:

  • We should continue to require juries to reach a “simple majority” decision (8 out of 15).
  • We should change to require a “qualified majority” in which at least two thirds of jurors must agree (this would be 10 in a 15 person jury, or 8 in a jury of 12).
  • We should reduce the jury size to 12 and require a “qualified majority” of 10 jurors for conviction as in the system in England and Wales.
  • We should change to some other majority requirement.

If you selected “some other majority requirement”, please state what proportion of the jury you feel should have to agree to the decision: Please give reasons for your answer including any other changes you consider would be required such as to the minimum number of jurors required for the trial to continue:

Question 10: Do you agree that where the required majority was not reached for a guilty verdict the jury should be considered to have returned an acquittal? Yes/No/Unsure

Please give reasons for your answer:

The Corroboration Rule

Question 11: Which of the following best reflects your view on what should happen with the corroboration rule in the following situations?

a) If Scotland remains a three verdict system and keeps the simple majority:

  • Scotland should abolish the corroboration rule
  • Scotland should reform the corroboration rule
  • Scotland should keep the corroboration rule as it is currently

Please give reasons for your answer:

b) If Scotland changes to a two verdict system and keeps the simple majority:

  • Scotland should abolish the corroboration rule
  • Scotland should reform the corroboration rule
  • Scotland should keep the corroboration rule as it is currently

Please give reasons for your answer:

c) If Scotland changes to a two verdict system and increases the jury majority:

  • Scotland should abolish the corroboration rule
  • Scotland should reform the corroboration rule
  • Scotland should keep the corroboration rule as it is currently

Please give reasons for your answer:

Question 12: If the corroboration rule was to be reformed, rather than abolished, what changes do you feel would be necessary?

Question 13: Do you feel further safeguards against wrongful conviction should be in place before any reform or abolition of the corroboration rule? Yes/No

Please give reasons for your answer, including what other safeguards you believe would be appropriate and why:

Question 14: If the corroboration rule was kept or reformed, what else could be done to help people, including those involved in the justice system and the general public, to understand it better?

Equality And Human Rights

Question 15: Considering the three needs of the public sector equality duty – to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and to foster good relations – can you describe how any of the reforms considered in this paper could have a particular impact on people with one or more of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation)?

Question 16: Are there any other issues relating to equality which you wish to raise in relation to the reforms proposed in this paper?

Question 17: Do you feel that any of the reforms considered in this paper would have an impact on human rights?

Other Impacts And Comments

Question 18: Do you feel that any of the reforms considered in this paper would have impacts on island communities, local government or the environment?

Question 19: Do you have any other comments about the content of this paper?


Contact

Email: notprovenverdict@gov.scot