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Not guilty...guilty... not proven


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I think its unique to Scotland now there's talk of getting rid of the not proven verdict,  what do you think a good thing or a mistake. 

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Posted (edited)

M’ learned friends tell me Not Proven is the lawyer’s’ preferred verdict. Means the bloke did it but the lawyer’s been clever enough to pull the wool over the jury’s eyes.

 

In reality there’s no justification for it. If guilt can’t be proven, the accused is not guilty.

 

You’re a gambling man though, @compo. I expect you’d prefer two chances to one if you’re up in front of the beak.

Edited by Scott7
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Given the justice system we have to live with, if you're 100% sure it's possible to eliminate all doubt in reaching a verdict then the Not Proven option is utterly unnecessary. However, if you have a concern that some verdicts might hinge on being forced to take a punt when unconvinced either way then you absolutely should not get rid of this eminently sensible choice of verdict.

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Fair enough, Bill but the Crown must prove guilt. The accused doesn’t have to prove innocence. On that theory, reasonable doubt should mean not guilty. 
 

I don’t think any other country has looked at Not Proven and thought it should be incorporated in their own justice system.

 

As you rightly say it’s an easy way out for the juror unwilling to say guilty but doubting innocence. Innocence, however, is not the issue.

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Posted (edited)

I think that the traditional Scottish verdicts were 'Proven' or 'Not Proven', and that somewhere, somehow, guilt came into it.

 

Abandon 'Not Proven' and expect a whole lot more wrongful convictions, and consequent payouts. 

 

Of course, many of the proponents of scrapping 'NP' seem to desire the abandonment of corroboration, too. A further avalanche of wrongful convictions and claims would follow. 

 

Nothing wrong with a review of the law, especially with respect to rape, and other sex crimes, but wholesale change for the sake of it is, I suspect, not the way forward. 

 

Consider, furthermore, the current state of the CO&PFS; and despair. 

Edited by Uilleam
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47 minutes ago, Scott7 said:

Fair enough, Bill but the Crown must prove guilt. The accused doesn’t have to prove innocence. On that theory, reasonable doubt should mean not guilty. 
 

I don’t think any other country has looked at Not Proven and thought it should be incorporated in their own justice system.

 

As you rightly say it’s an easy way out for the juror unwilling to say guilty but doubting innocence. Innocence, however, is not the issue.

It doesn’t matter what the Crown has to prove. NP is an issue for a jury, not the prosecution or the defence. Only a jury decides guilt or innocence and where a jury is collectively unconvinced either way it seems right they should have an option that reflects that doubt. Justice isn’t always black or white. The point of a jury is to make decisions and the most important criteria should always be to avoid a wrong decision. You have to ask yourself - what is more important, to make a decision or to avoid making the wrong decision?

 

Many great minds have questioned the NP verdict over the decades and concluded it should stay. You might take some comfort from that. Change for the sake of change is no reason for change. 

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24 minutes ago, Bill said:

Only a jury decides guilt or innocence

In a criminal trial the issue is the guilt of the accused, not his innocence. 
 

A study of the deliberations and decision making of juries would be very informative but unfortunately, it can’t be done. 
 

Not Proven. is like a massive safety valve bolted on to a piece of otherwise streamlined machinery. If I am a theorist I can’t justify it. If I’m handcuffed in the dock, I’ll take as many options as are available.

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https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/politicians-guilty-of-ignorance-over-not-proven-verdict-jzdv0vx3x

 

DOUGLAS CUSINE

Politicians guilty of ignorance over not proven verdict

Douglas Cusine

Thursday May 06 2021, 12.01am, The Times

 

The manifestos of both the Conservative Party and the SNP included a commitment to abolish Scotland’s not proven verdict. The first minister made a comment to the effect that a disproportionate number of such verdicts are returned in cases of alleged sex assault and in particular rape cases. That was not only an unfortunate remark but a disgraceful one. It is an implied slur on the jurors in such cases.

 

It would ill become us to cloud the issue with the facts. The criminal justice statistics are published by the Justice Directorate, a branch of the Scottish government, and the information which follows is taken from a Freedom of Information request which shows the total number of cases for the years 2011 onwards. The cases are broken down into solemn — jury cases — and summary — no jury. They are further divided into seven headings, including crimes of dishonesty, sexual cases and motoring offences.

 

These statistics show, firstly, that the not proven verdict is used more often by judges sitting alone than by jurors. The suggestion that it is particularly favoured by jurors is quite simply false. Of all the cases listed under the seven headings, the not proven verdict was used most often in vehicle offences. They are of course more common than many other offences but are also most often dealt with by judges sitting without a jury.

 

Those who wish to abolish the verdict must have sound reasons to do so and in the absence of observing a significant number of cases the abolitionists are not starting from as informed a standpoint as they could. In our experience it is rare for politicians to spectate and so their information about the courts is not first-hand.

Those who refer to the particular example of “sexual cases” might look carefully, as we have done, at the government’s own statistics, even if they say they do not have time to attend courts as spectators, or even speak to those who practise in the courts.

 

It is sometimes said jokingly: “If the facts are against you, argue the law and if the law is against you, argue the facts.” In this case, there is no law to argue, just the facts and they speak for themselves, if one takes the trouble to look — and three minutes would be enough.

 

Douglas Cusine is a retired sheriff and member of Quis, a group of senior retired sheriffs and lawyers who address current legal issues of concern

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Posted (edited)

It should always raise concerns, or at least suspicions, when the established and tested wisdom of many generations is cast aside on the basis of little more than "we're here now so we must know best". That's the arrogance of adolescence and should never form the basis of important change.

Edited by Bill
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