The Law Society of Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to drop plans for juryless rape trials after Holyrood’s Criminal Justice committee failed to back a pilot scheme.

They also cautioned against plans to scrap the not proven verdict after the cross-party group rejected plans to reduce jury sizes.

READ MORE: MSPs split on ‘controversial’ plan for juryless rape trials

Last week, in their Stage 1 report, on the new Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, the committee was evenly split on the pilot for judge-only rape trials, with only the four SNP members backing the key proposal.

The two Conservative and two Labour MSPs opposed.

On the not proven verdict, the committee said it “has had its day and should be abolished.”

However, they expressed concerns about reducing jury sizes and moving from a simple majority verdict to a two-thirds verdict.

Currently, a simple majority is required for a guilty verdict in a Scottish court, which means eight out of 15 jurors.

But while Bill seeks to reduce the number of jurors in criminal trials from 15 to 12, the number of jurors needed for a guilty verdict would remain at eight.

The MSPs said they had not heard “convincing evidence in favour of the specific proposals.”

They also pointed to concerns from Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC that the change could make it “far more difficult” to convict people.

Law Society of Scotland President Sheila Webster said the report underlined the sector’s concerns about key elements of the Bill.

She said: “The proposal to introduce juryless trials for rape cases has been the most controversial part of this Bill, and it has proven to be equally divisive for committee members.

"The lack of consensus confirms this plan is flawed and is lacking detail and supporting evidence. It should be removed from the Bill."

Ms Webster said the society had some “significant concerns” about the committee’s support for doing away with not proven “despite acknowledging they don’t know what the impact of that decision will be.”

She said: “Scrapping not proven without any balancing provisions would be an entirely unacceptable outcome with unforeseeable outcomes.

"If there is insufficient evidence to decide on jury size and verdict majority, then ‘not proven’ must be retained.”

READ MORE: Lord Advocate 'concerned' over SNP plan to reduce jury size

Plans for juryless trials have been in doubt ever since they were first suggested by the Scottish Government.

During their evidence sessions, the Criminal Justice Committee heard that around 97% of Scottish solicitors were prepared to boycott the pilot scheme.

Simon Brown, Vice-President of the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association (SSBA) told MSPs that ministers were “experimenting with people's lives.”

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: “The committee heard compelling evidence from many witnesses that our justice system is not working for victims of sexual offences.

“These proposals are a result of the recommendations of the independent review carried out by Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge. That review recommended that we should pilot an alternative to jury trials, on a time-limited basis, to let us have a properly informed debate on how our system delivers justice for victims of rape.”

Ms Constance said she noted the “differing views from committee members on the proposals” as she stressed she is “keen to build as much consensus as possible”.

The Justice Secretary pledged to “continue to work with and listen to the voices of members from all parties, of partners from across the justice system, and of victims themselves”.

She also welcomed the MSPs’ backing for abolishing not proven, saying this is “based on significant and longstanding concerns”.

Ms Constance added: “Survivors and families have shown immense bravery and dedication in campaigning for this to improve our legal system.”