1. The independent jury research published in October 2019 is the largest and most realistic of its kind ever undertaken in the UK and it is the first large-scale mock jury research project to consider the unique Scottish jury system with 15 jurors, three verdicts (including not proven) and the simple majority.
2. It was undertaken over two years, using case simulations with nearly 900 mock jurors. It used high-quality filmed trials, presided over by a former High Court Judge and reviewed by Scottish legal practitioners to ensure their realism. The work was conducted by a team of research and legal experts from Ipsos MORI, Professors James Chalmers and Fiona Leverick from the University of Glasgow and Professor Vanessa Munro from the University of Warwick.
3. The work addressed two overarching questions:
- What effects do the unique features of the Scottish jury system have on jury reasoning and jury decision making?
- What are jurors’ understandings of the not proven verdict and why might they choose this verdict over another verdict?
4. The findings of the study, which were published in October 2019, suggest that if elements of the jury are changed there may be potential impacts on the verdicts in finely balanced trials:
- reducing jury size from 15 to 12, as is the norm in most English language jurisdictions, might lead to more individual jurors switching their position towards the majority view;
- asking juries to reach a unanimous or near unanimous verdict might tilt more jurors in favour of acquittal;
- removing the not proven verdict might incline more jurors towards a guilty verdict in finely balanced trials; and
- furthermore, there are inconsistent views on the meaning of not proven and how it differs from not guilty.
5. Several other potential misunderstandings of legal concepts arose relatively frequently across the mock juries. For example, there was a belief that the accused needs to prove their innocence, a belief that the accused can be retried following a not proven verdict, and misunderstanding of the fact that self-defence is a legitimate defence to an assault charge, even when the fact that the accused inflicted the injury is not in dispute.
6. In addition to these key points, a range of other findings can be seen in the main jury research report here.
7. Following the publication of the report, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice committed to undertake further discussions on the findings, including the possibility of moving to a two verdict system, while noting that he had an open mind on whether further changes may be required and would not prejudge the outcome of those conversations.