Con­cerns raised over ‘not proven’

● St An­drews grad­u­ate and vic­tim cam­paigner speaks out ahead of re­port

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SHÂN ROSS

A ma­jor re­port into Scot­land’s jury sys­tem is ex­pected to call for the not proven ver­dict to be re-ex­am­ined, as con­cerns were raised about whether ju­rors un­der­stood what it meant.

A 2016 Bill to abol­ish the not proven ver­dict, which is an ac­quit­tal with no le­gal con­se­quences for the ac­cused, was re­jected by MSPS.

“The ma­jor­ity of ju­rors in Scot­land and many peo­ple work­ing in the jus­tice sys­tem don’t even un­der­stand what a not proven ver­dict means,” Miss M, the St An­drews Uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate who suc­cess­fully sued the man who raped her af­ter the charge against him re­sulted in such a ver­dict, has said.

The woman, who launched a civil ac­tion against her at­tacker Stephen Coxen and now leads the high-profile End Not Proven cam­paign run by Rape Cri­sis Scot­land, was speak­ing just days be­fore the re­lease of a ma­jor re­port this week into Scot­land’s con­tro­ver­sial jury sys­tem.

It is ex­pected to re­sult in a con­sul­ta­tion on giv­ing the choice of two ver­dicts in Scot­land, in­stead of the cur­rent guilty, not guilty or not proven.

Not guilty and not proven are both ac­quit­tals, mean­ing there are no le­gal con­se­quences for the ac­cused if they re­ceive a not proven ver­dict.

The re­port, a two-year study of Scot­tish ju­ries by Ip­sos Mori with aca­demics from the uni­ver­si­ties of Glas­gow and War­wick, in­volv­ing ev­i­dence from 1,000 ju­rors, is also ex­pected to lead to dis­cus­sion on re­duc­ing the size of ju­rors from 15.

Miss M, who was raped in Septem­ber 2013 and in 2018 was awarded £80,000 fol­low­ing a judg­ment by Sher­iff Robert Weir QC, said: “The amount of peo­ple who con­tact me af­ter I’ve been on tele­vi­sion or ra­dio talk­ing about the End Not Proven cam­paign and tell me they were on ju­ries just two or three weeks ago and never un­der­stood what not proven meant.

“I’m talk­ing about teach­ers, doc­tors, any­one go­ing on to a jury, who have it in their minds some­how that not proven means the per­son is guilty but there is not enough ev­i­dence to con­vict them. Even peo­ple work­ing with sur­vivors are say­ing dif­fer­ent things.

“It’s not fair for peo­ple sit­ting on the jury, the sur­vivor or the ac­cused. The only op­tions avail­able to ju­rors should be some­thing we all un­der­stand. What is de­cided af­fects fu­tures and lives.

“When you go to court in a rape case you’re ques­tioned, your cred­i­bil­ity is ques­tioned, what you wore, what you drank. When I was in court it was the most har­row­ing two weeks of my life. You think there’s go­ing to be clo­sure but with not proven you’re left think­ing, ‘Is it our fault?’

“But not proven is a se­cond form of ac­quit­tal, not dif­fer­ent from not guilty.”

Miss M added: “Ju­rors come along with their own ‘rape myths’. Not al­ways, but I feel that quite of­ten this in­flu­ences their de­ci­sion. It lets peo­ple sit on the fence.”

Coxen, 25, from Bury in Greater Manch­ester, had de­nied the charges and later de­clared him­self bank­rupt fol­low­ing Sher­iff Weir’s judg­ment.

Rape Cri­sis Scot­land says the not proven ver­dict is used dis­pro­por­tion­ately in rape cases. In 2016-17, only 39 per cent of rape and at­tempted rape cases re­sulted in con­vic­tions, the low­est rate for any type of crime. Nearly 30 per cent of ac­quit­tals were not proven, com­pared with 17 per cent for all crimes and of­fences.

Sandy Brind­ley, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Rape Cri­sis Scot­land, said: “The not proven ver­dict needs to go. The rest of the UK has guilty and not guilty. What we have is a sys­tem which al­lows wrong­ful ac­quit­tals and lets guilty men walk free.”

Kate and Joe Duffy, whose 19-year-old daugh­ter Amanda was mur­dered in Hamil­ton in 1992 af­ter a night out, cam­paigned and launched a na­tional pe­ti­tion to have the not proven ver­dict scrapped af­ter the case against Fran­cis Auld, tried for her mur­der, re­sulted in a not proven ver­dict.

In 2016 Labour’s Michael Mcma­hon put for­ward a Bill to abol­ish the not proven ver­dict. MSPS re­jected it by 80 votes to 28.

James Kelly, Scot­tish Labour jus­tice spokesman, said: “I wel­come the de­bate on the not proven ver­dict. Scot­tish Labour will care­fully con­sider all views, par­tic­u­larly the views of vic­tims’ or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

Liam Kerr, the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives’ shadow jus­tice sec­re­tary, said: “We re­main un­con­vinced of the ar­gu­ment for change at this time. Any amend­ments would have to be very care­fully con­sid­ered.”

0 Miss M suc­cess­fully sued the man who raped her

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