SCOTLAND's controversial 'not proven' verdict in courts of law could be scrapped, after a Scottish Government consultation revealed support for it.

The SNP had pledged to review the current three-verdict system, which allows juries to return a not proven verdict, in recognition of “the strong case that can be made for abolition”.

A consultation has found that some 62% of the 194 answers to the question were in favour of scrapping the 'not proven' verdict.

But seven of the eight legal organisations that responded to the consultation wanted to keep the current system in place, while all advocacy groups and 10 of the 17 academic respondents were in favour of a change to a two verdict system.

When asked what the two verdicts should be, 50% said juries should have the option to declare someone guilty or not guilty, while 41% believed the wording should be between proven and not proven – 9% said they would opt for another system.

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet justice secretary Jamie Greene said the pressure is now on the SNP to deliver the scrapping of the 'not proven' verdict which was supported by many victims' organisations.

“The debate around not proven has gone on for more than a century and it is time we saw this verdict from a bygone age end. All too often it lets down victims of crime and is used disproportionately in rape and sexual offence cases," he daid.

“Keith Brown must now urgently set out his plans and if he fails to do so then I will proceed with my own legislation to scrap the 'not proven' verdict through parliament so that it happens one way or another.”

The Herald:

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said the Scottish Government would “give careful consideration” to the responses.

“I am very grateful to all of those individuals and organisations who have taken the time to contribute their views on these matters, particularly those who have shared their personal experience of the justice system,” he said.

“We must now give careful consideration to the full range of responses received.

“The findings from this consultation analysis will be used along with a wide range of other information and evidence to inform the decision making process on any potential recommendations for reform.

"Any potential reforms will be considered alongside wider work including the outcome of the current consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system.”

The consultation also looked at wider issues in the court system, including the size of juries, with a majority of respondents supporting the 15 person panels in Scotland.

Some 52% also backed the use of a qualified majority – meaning a set number of jurors would have to be in favour of a guilty verdict before it can be returned.

Deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats  Wendy Chamberlain said:  "Use of the not proven verdict doesn’t sit well in a modern legal context. The defendant remains neither innocent nor guilty."

The former police officer and north east Fife MP added: "It leaves victims without the justice they deserve whilst those wrongfully accused may never clear their names. It is time to drop the not proven verdict."