A Bill which would both abolish Scotland's not proven verdict and change the majority required in jury trials for a conviction has failed to receive the backing of Holyrood’s Justice Committee.
A clear majority of the Committee supports the ‘intention’ to abolish not proven verdicts, but the Committee was unable to support plans to increase from 8 to 10 the majority required for jury trial convictions.
The general principles of the Bill have therefore not been endorsed by the Committee, says a parliamentary report published today.
Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said:
"Michael McMahon's Bill has shone a light on the ambiguities of the not proven verdict, and raised serious questions as to whether the verdict serves any useful purpose.
“Not proven is often deeply unsatisfactory for victims and no better for those acquitted on it.
“Like most members of the committee, I believe the not proven verdict is on borrowed time, but changes to majority verdict requirement raise complex questions that should be considered alongside other reforms, currently under consideration by Lord Bonomy.”
The recommendations in the report include the following:
“A clear majority of the Committee supports the intention of the Bill to abolish the not proven verdict but not the proposal in relation to jury majorities. The Committee considers that the latter proposal should be considered alongside the other reforms proposed by Lord Bonomy.
“In the Committee’s view, Mr McMahon has effectively acknowledged that removal of the not proven verdict requires consideration of wider issues relating to decision-making by juries by proposing in the Bill parallel reforms in relation to jury majorities.
“The Committee understands the reasons for Mr McMahon including this measure in the Bill but notes the opposition to this proposal that arose in written evidence. In our view, this underlines the benefit of further research on decision-making by juries before proceeding with the reforms set out in the Bill.
“The Committee hopes that the research on juries announced by the Scottish Government will proceed soon.
“A majority of the Committee is therefore unable to support the general principles of the Bill.”
An annex to the Committee report sets out information on the use of the Not Proven verdict in Scotland.