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MSP's bill would abolish "not proven" verdict

28 November 2013

The "not proven" verdict in Scottish criminal trials would be abolished under a member's bill just introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, has followed up his consultation on the subject last year with a bill that provides that "There are only two verdicts available in criminal proceedings, guilty and not guilty."

It would also require at least 10 members of a jury in favour of a guilty verdict fot a conviction to be returned, unless ajury is reduced to 13 in number, when nine would be required, or the minimum 12, when eight members would have to support a conviction.

The Scottish Government's Criminal Justice Bill, curtrently before the Holyrood Parliament, contains similar provisions regarding jury voting but makes no change tpo the verdicts available. Many lawyers regard the existence of the not proven verdict as a safeguard against wrongful conviction, especially if the corroboration rule is abolished as proposed by the bill.

In proposing his bill, Mr McMahon described the present system as "illogical and confusing" and one that "skews the justice system in favour of the accused". He argued that the not proven verdict was inconsistent with the presumption of innocenc.

The bill will now be allocated to a committee for a stage 1 report.

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Annette smith

Saturday October 11, 2014, 09:29

I fully agree the 'not proven' verdict has to be abolished! I have just sat in on a 15 person jury on a case where not one member of that jury denied the accused was guilty .... But they gave a 'not proven' verdict (9 to 6 majority) on the basis of the Crown not delivering a concise and robust case. Not only was the 'not proven' option wrong in this case; the fact that the Crown had not 'worked hard' at presenting the case (and all jurors agreed this also ... Had the Crown presented the case better with more robust reasoning they would have been able to matter of factly given a 'guilty' verdict on an 8 to 7 majority! I am disgusted by the 'not proven' verdict being allowed in Scottish law .... If we as jurors are asked to make such an important decision then surely we should be able to do so without a get out clause of 'we know the accused is guilty but the Crown hasn't proved this beyond reasonable doubt' .... Just a thought but if the not proven verdict wasn't a available would our Crown have worked harder to fight the corner of the complainants!!!!!

[Actually if the Crown hadn't proved it beyond reasonable doubt, the majority were quite right to acquit, whether they called it not guilty or not proven - Editor]