I AM frankly appalled that an SNP Government should cave in to populism by advocating the removal of the "not proven" verdict ("Concerns as not proven verdict ‘cornerstone’ is set to be axed", The Herald, April 27), especially when it is based on an overly-simplistic “consultation" to which a mere 179 people responded and with only 62% in favour.

The views of the 90% of lawyers and legal organisations which favoured retention were simply ignored. This suggests to me that this was a pre-arranged rubber-stamping exercise designed to gain votes rather than to protect a key component of our legal tradition.

The main driver of this change is the belief that “too many guilty men are going free” in rape trials and that moving to a two-verdict system will change things. The statistics say otherwise.

In 2018 in England and Wales there were 55,836 rapes recorded with only 3.8% resulting in a prosecution. Only 2.6% of reported rapes resulted in a "guilty" verdict. In the same year in Scotland there were 2,293 rapes reported with 14% resulting in a prosecution. However here 9.6% of reported rapes ended up with a "guilty" verdict whilst only 3% were found not proven.

Confusion amongst juries has also been cited as a justification for change. This seems to stem from a mock jury trial in 2019 which concluded that “in finely balanced trials, the availability of not proven may tip more jurors towards acquitting even before they have discussed the evidence”. However another mock jury study in 2021 at Napier University concluded that “the claim that the not proven verdict decreases guilty verdicts was shown to be unjustified”.

Prior to that, two mock jury studies in Australia in 2007 involving both a criminal and civil case came up with a similar conclusion and stated that “Contrary to the hypothesis that the Not Proven option lures people away from convictions, we find in both trials that it lures them away from full acquittals to a greater extent”.

The jury’s understanding of the verdict was the main theme of the Hope studies in 2008 which looked at this in detail. They concluded that “participants who were given instructions on the ‘not proven’ verdict demonstrated significantly better understanding of the verdict, with 77% of participants understanding that it led to an acquittal. Additionally, 88% of participants in the three-verdict condition cited 'insufficient evidence' as their primary reason for giving the ‘not proven’ verdict. In other words it was not because of confusion or being forced to compromise.”

This demonstrates that minimal instruction increases a jury’s understanding of "not proven". By so doing you can further demonstrate the validity of the "not proven" verdict and avoid the catastrophic failure in rape convictions now evident south of the border under the two-verdict system.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

The verdict of Innocent

IT is surely a dreadful loss for Scotland, that it is about to lose its unique distinction of being the only country, as far as I know in the world, to be able to declare an accused person innocent. Yes, innocent.

In, for example, England, the accused may receive either a verdict of Guilty – we think you did it; or Not Guilty – it has not been proved that you did it, or, in other words, Not Proven. Not at all the same thing as innocent.

Here, though, there is the choice of Guilty – we think you did it; Not Proven – we don’t know whether you did it or not; or the verdict wrongly called Not Guilty – we think you did not do it; that is, innocent.

Clearly I’m not a lawyer; but I feel that the most sensible, honest thing would be to adopt all three forms of verdict throughout Britain. The more exact verdicts would, as now, be open to appeal, but it should be possible for a person given the formal, open-ended Not Proven verdict to be retried without great fuss in the future, if further evidence appeared.

Frances Hendry, Nairn.

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Read more: SNP to abolish not proven verdict and set up sexual offences court

Feeling sorry for Yousaf

YOU know you are in trouble as a political leader when people from the “other side” start to sympathise with your predicament, but that is how I feel about Humza Yousaf. I feel a bit sorry for him.

Having seen various SNP politicians and commentators trying to defend their position over the last week or so, I have come to the conclusion that most of their personnel are giving the rest of them a bad name. They don’t seem to have anyone who can speak with either authority or humility, no-one competent to delegate to, no-one who seems to know what they are doing.

There is a reason for this of course. Too many of them were chosen for their willingness to follow the previous leader, and not to question them under any circumstances. A lot of them had to sign a contract to that effect. That kind of approach favours people who can appear to function well when the wind is blowing in their favour, but creates a problem when the boat hits a rock and the captain decides to jump ship first. It doesn’t then matter how many of you there are, if no-one knows what is happening, or what the objective now is, or indeed if you will have a role in the party going forwards now at all. This is a single-issue party, without a road map, and now without a purpose. The years of pretence have come to an end.

And for the first time since the SNP came to power, we even have the Scottish political press asking serious questions, and persevering with that. You know you are in trouble when even they decide to put you on the spot, unable to ignore the blindingly obvious any longer. Things must be bad indeed. Poor Humza.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy.


• THE self-inflicted juxtaposition the SNP is facing was perfectly demonstrated by Frances McKie and Brian Watt (Letters, April 27). Both SNP members, Ms McKie writes an extensive letter detailing why we should entrust the party to deliver independence. At the same time Mr Watt takes two sentences to explain why we should not.

Laurence Wade, Coylton.

No time to raise taxes

LAST week First Minister Yousaf presented his vision for Scotland without offering any new concepts or policies that could revitalise our sluggish economy. Instead we got the disastrous continuity the SNP membership voted for. His "progressive" taxation would result in increased taxes, which would in turn have an adverse effect on the population's pockets and the already vulnerable economy.

Surely this is not the time to raise taxes. Scotland is in desperate need of a new beginning, a constructive vision carried out through bold policy initiatives. This wasn’t it. Humza Yousaf offers nothing to Scotland except the same failed notions. The SNP has proved to be incapable of governing Scotland. It is perhaps fortunate for him that his big moment was drowned out by the continuing scandals engulfing the SNP.

Jon Herd, Kilmarnock.

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Read more: A tale of two Britains: the bankers and the broken

Free of the UK and monarchy

I READ Neil Mackay's excellent article this morning ("A tale of two Britains: the bankers and the broken", The Herald, April 27). I then turned over the page to see Rebecca McQuillan's question: "The English do love a royal party so why don't reluctant Scots?".

Fortunately, Ms McQuillan appears to see the light, and shows some agreement with Mr Mackay with her comment that the "monarchy is the epitome of British privilege and elitism" and I really like her proposed slogan "Charles, free by 33?". But surely, if we try, we could get rid of Westminster rule and the monarchy sooner than '33?

Patricia Fort, Glasgow.

The problem with politicians

IT is disappointing that so few of your dedicated correspondents ever consider one of the most serious defects in British politics – the lack of long-term vision or policies.

Not only does this omission reduce politics to a superficial game of electioneering (with any future vision limited to five years at most) but it provides politicians with the opportunity to blame any problems on whichever party was in charge previously. There is never any admission by them that many problems and failures have their origins in much earlier decisions, possibly even taken by their own party. Even if something constructive has been created by a previous government, there is a petulant tendency by the incoming lot to destroy it.

Politicians seem to attach no priority to improving the standard of living of the population or improving the general level of happiness. All that matters is getting elected. Unless, of course, you are in the House of Lords, in which case you don't even have to bother with an election.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.