Time to ‘look at’ not proven verdict in Scottish courts, Nicola Sturgeon says

Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor
·2-min read

Nicola Sturgeon has said it is time to look at whether Scotland retains its controversial not proven verdict, as part of efforts to tackle the “shamefully low” conviction rates for rape and sexual assault.

The First Minister, who trained as a lawyer, revealed she personally had changed her mind on the issue.

It comes in the wake of calls to scrap the verdict – one of three available in trials in Scotland – by Rape Crisis Scotland.

The organisation launched a campaign in 2018 along with the woman known as Miss M,  who successfully sued the man cleared of raping her for damages in the civil courts.

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Scotland is the only part of the UK where juries can return three verdicts at the end of a trial – guilty, not guilty or not proven.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has also said his party “fully committed” to abolishing the verdict

Speaking to PA Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said: “I do think it is time to look at the not proven verdict.”

Recalling when she studied law at Glasgow University, she said it had been “imprinted on my brain” that the “three totemic things” that make Scots law distinctive were the not proven verdict, the need for corroboration in trials with evidence coming from more than one source, and that there are 15 people needed to make up a jury.

In the past she said “maybe I have had a bit of a lawyers’ view” of the not proven verdict.

But she added: “The conviction rate for rape and sexual assault is shamefully low. And I think there is mounting evidence and increasingly strong arguments that the not proven verdict is a part of that.

“So I think it is something that it is time to look at.”