There is a debate on going regarding the not proven verdict in Scotland. In an article from the Times, Gordon Jackson QC, who is The Dean of the Faculty of Advocates has backed the removal of the ‘ Not Proven’ . https://www.scottishlegal.com/article/gordon-jackson-qc-backs-abolition-of-not-proven (See below)
There are many misconceptions regarding the verdict but in reality the legal implications of the not proven verdict are exactly the same as not guilty verdict – the accused is acquitted and is innocent in the eyes of the law. They should also be viewed the same way by the public.
There is a view that the not proven verdict offers extra protection for an appellant by ensuring that if a jury has any doubts they will use the not proven verdict. This of course fails to take into account how juries should be directed by the judge who should make it clear that there is no distinction in law between not guilty and not proven.
The view that suggest juries are confused or don’t know the implication of the verdict they pass is based on nothing other than a supposition because as far as we are aware juries views are not sought or recorded. So very often those speaking for juries are basing their views on the not proven verdict on their own partial positions rather than on any empirical evidence.
Should the verdicts be changed, perhaps. Should it be changed based on the partial views of many of those taking part in the debate, no. That’s not to say Mr Jackson view, and conclusions are partial though. We do agree that a single majority verdict based on a 8-7 split risks miscarriages of justice.We support a review and overhaul of the Scottish Judicial system.
Here is the Scottish Legal News Article:
Gordon Jackson QC backs abolition of ‘not proven’
The Dean of the Faculty of Advocates has called for the ‘not proven’ verdict to be abolished and for Scotland’s jury system to be reformed.
Gordon Jackson QC told The Times that the single-vote majority of eight-to-seven could lead to miscarriages of justice.
He said: “Having the eight/seven majority is ridiculous.
“A person goes to prison for 30 years of the basis of eight out of 15? That is just not right. There is a growing feeling that the simple majority is not right.”
Mr Jackson expressed concern about the threshold of a majority verdict rather than the total number of jurors. He said the majority should either be 12-to-three or eight-to-four in the case of a 12-person jury.
The ‘not proven’ verdict has the same effect as ‘not guilty’.
Some lawyers have argued that it is logical to abolish ‘not guilty’ on the basis that whether a case has been proven or not by the Crown is the question for the jury.
Others maintain that a jury’s role is to determine whether each charge has been proven or not and that the ultimate purpose of this is to provide a verdict on whether the accused is guilty or not, which proceeds from the presumption of innocence.
Mr Jackson said: “I don’t think the conviction rate would go up if you didn’t have the not proven verdict.
“The reason that people want to keep it, is in my view, a myth. I do not see the logic that believes, ‘If you take away not proven the jury will say guilty’. I think that is to treat juries as not really doing the job properly.”