The SNP’s Justice Secretary has insisted the controversial not proven verdict needs to be scrapped to ensure the court system “reflects the needs of modern-day Scotland” – as she issued a warning that the current set-up can “retraumatise” victims of crime.

Angela Constance was speaking after holding a summit, alongside First Minister Humza Yousaf, with a number of prominent victims of crime, campaigners and organisations.

The Scottish Government has published wide-ranging legislative plans to overhaul the justice system, including abolishing the not proven verdict.

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

The proposals, to be considered by Holyrood, include giving ministers the power to hold a pilot of juryless trials, while the jury size and majority required to convict will be altered under the plans.

Debates around Scotland’s third verdict, which has the legal effect of acquitting the accused, have been going on for years.

The verdict is unique to Scots law and there is no equivalent in other jurisdictions Legal professional have warned against scrapping the verdict.

🔴 Save on a full year of digital access with our lowest EVER offer.

Subscribe for the whole year to The Herald for only £24 for unlimited website access or £30 for our digital pack.

This is only available for a limited time so don't miss out.

👉 Click here to subscribe

David McKie, partner at Levy and McRae solicitors, said: “The not proven verdict has been a vital cornerstone of the Scottish justice system for centuries.

“It is grounded on a fundamental pillar of the trial process, that the Crown proves its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Read more: Opinion: High time to abolish the not proven verdict

“I see no reason to abolish the verdict and am concerned at what appears a further erosion of the rights of an accused person in this country.”

But Ms Constance insisted that the not proven verdict needed to be scrapped to improve Scotland’s justice system.

She said: “This Bill is about ensuring that the voices and needs of victims are at the heart of our justice system.

“There is substantial evidence that the not proven verdict in many instances retraumatises victims and survivors because of its lack of clarity.

“While we are proud of our justice system in Scotland, we do need to make sure that our system reflects the needs of modern-day Scotland and I don’t think it is defensible any longer to have a not proven verdict where there is no statutory definition.”

The Justice Secretary added: “It has taken a long time to get to this point. This is landmark legislation.

“This Bill has some of the biggest reforms for our justice system in the history of devolution.”

She also hailed the creation of a new independent commissioner for victims and witnesses.

The timing of a pilot of single-judge trials will depend on how the Bill passes through Parliament, she said.

Read more: Bid to set up sex crime courts to cut backlog and raise convictions

Previously, the Law Society has warned there could be an increase in miscarriages of justice if not proven is scrapped as a verdict.

Its president, Murray Etherington, said: “The right to a fair trial is a cornerstone of the Scottish criminal justice system. Even on a pilot basis, judge-only trials will put that fundamental right in jeopardy with no discernible benefits.

“By its very definition, a jury is a better reflection of Scottish society than a single judge can possibly be. Juries act as an essential and effective safeguard against the potential for unconscious biases to unfairly influence trial outcomes.

“Undermining the foundations of the Scottish justice system to increase conviction rates is a dangerous approach which will create a serious risk of injustice.”