Michael McMahon MSP has launched a consultation on his proposed Reform of Criminal Verdicts (Scotland) Bill which proposes abolishing the peculiarly Scottish “not proven” verdict in criminal trials – famously described by Sir Walter Scott as “that bastard verdict”. It also proposes increasing the majority required to return a conviction from 8/15 to 10/15.
The consultation is open until October and invites the views of all and sundry. To be fair, Mr. McMahon appears open to the proposition that the system be reformed by moving to a proven/not proven choice.
That, it would seem to me would be the better solution, as it more accurately describes the task of the jury. Juries are not mindreaders, psychologists or gods. They cannot know what foul deeds occurred at whose hand, nor weigh a man’s soul, nor pierce his heart. They are selected at random to fulfil one duty, which is to weigh the evidence and to determine whether the charge is proven (or not).
To ask 15 ordinary men and women to make a choice between “guilty” and “not guilty” is just silly.
- Not proven verdict in dock again (bbc.co.uk)