Informing Reform: The views of legal professionals on the unique aspects of Scottish Law

Curley, Lee; Munro, James; Frumkin, Lara and Turner, Jim (2021). Informing Reform: The views of legal professionals on the unique aspects of Scottish Law. Medicine, Science and the Law (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0025802421992913

Abstract

The unique Scottish legal system stands apart from the better-known Anglo-American legal system, with variations relating to jury size (15 vs. 12), the number of verdicts available (3 vs. 2), and majority size (simple majority vs. unanimous). At present only a handful of investigations have explored the effects of the Scottish not proven verdict on jurors, and only a single study has explored the combined impact of the unique elements of the Scottish legal system on juror and jury decision making. The current study is the first to investigate the views of Scottish legal professionals on the three-verdict system, 15-person jury and simple majority verdict system. The aim of the study is to inform public and political debate, involve legal stakeholders in policy changes and decision making, and to compare legal professionals’ views with findings from previously conducted juror studies. Seventy-eight legal professionals took part in an online survey which asked for ratings and open-responses on their attitudes to the Scottish: 1) three-verdict system; 2) 15-person jury; and 3) simple majority system. The results highlighted strong positive attitudes towards the not proven verdict (particularly in a binary verdict system of proven and not proven), 15-person juries and both the simple and qualified majority verdict systems. There was minimal support for reform towards an Anglo-American system, instead the reforms preferred by the legal professionals would be to require a qualified majority of 12/15 jurors, and to use a binary verdict system of proven and not proven.

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