MP joins call to abolish 'not proven' verdicts

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Indy Politics
(First Edition)

THE LABOUR MP, George Robertson, plans to introduce a Commons Private Member's Bill aimed at abolishing the Scottish law verdict of 'not proven'.

Although the Bill is likely to have little chance of being enacted, it is the latest move in a widening campaign to stop juries being given the option of delivering that verdict.

Kate and Joe Duffy of Lanarkshire began a local petition to that effect after their daughter was killed and a man charged with her murder walked free after the jury delivered a 'not proven' verdict. Mr Duffy, speaking in Glasgow to launch a national petition, said 'not proven' meant nothing. 'It is the same as not guilty . . . a full acquittal. People are being misled. The case can't be reopened, nor retried, nor brought back if there is fresh evidence.' Mrs Duffy said it was 'the beginning of a life sentence' for victims' families.

Mr Robertson says he wants the law changed to avoid it being brought into disrepute in the eyes of the public. The Royal Commission studying the English legal system is to examine how 'not proven' works. If it finds it to be inappropriate, Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, would order a re-examination.

The verdict dates back to 18th century Scottish law when juries were asked to deliver verdicts on the facts presented to them. The decision on whether a crime was committed was left to the judges.

Professor William Gordon, professor of civil law at Glasgow University, said there was a certain logic to 'not proven': 'There may not have been enough evidence presented to convince the jury beyond a shadow of doubt.' Corroboration of evidence, crucial in Scottish law, was central to its use. 'There are often cases where one witness is believed but there are doubts over another witness. In such cases there is a logic to delivering 'not proven',' he said.