Proven and not proven: A potential alternative to the current Scottish verdict system

Curley, Lee John; Munro, James; Turner, Jim; Frumkin, Lara A.; Jackson, Elaine and Lages, Martin (2022). Proven and not proven: A potential alternative to the current Scottish verdict system. Behavioral Sciences & the Law (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2568

Abstract

The current Scottish verdict system includes three verdicts: ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’ and ‘not proven’. The Scottish Government are currently reviewing the utility of the not proven verdict. Proponents of the not proven verdict suggest that it directs jurors to their true role of determining whether the prosecution's case has, or has not, been ‘proven’. Reformists suggest a move to a system similar to England and Wales, with only guilty and not guilty verdicts. However, legal professionals have indicated a preference for an alternative system of proven and not proven. The aim of the current study was to test the effects of a proven and not proven system on verdicts given, when compared to alternative verdict systems (specifically, the current Scottish and Anglo‐American verdict systems). 227 mock jurors watched a staged murder trial, filmed in a real‐life courtroom, with legal professionals questioning witnesses and a judge giving legal direction. Jurors were significantly more likely to convict in a guilty and not guilty verdict system than either a proven and not proven or a guilty, not guilty and not proven verdict system. Future research should replicate this study with a focus on the impact of the not proven verdict in sexual offences.

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