Case for change not proven ... yet!

Michael McMahon MSP with a copy of the Bill
Michael McMahon MSP with a copy of the Bill

Uddingston and Bellshill MSP Michael McMahon failed to get rid of the not proven verdict, but remains confident its days are numbered.

Mr McMahon worked on his Criminal Verdicts (Scotland) Bill for 10 years which would have given juries just two options - guilty and not guilty - while also increasing the number of jurors needed for a verdict from a simple majority to two-thirds.

However, with the Scottish Government due to start their own investigation into corroboration, which will also look at how juries arrive at a decision, Mr McMahon’s Bill was defeated 80-28 in
Parliament.

Mr McMahon said: “I first developed an interest in the not proven verdict following the Amanda Duffy case.

“It was made clear to me that if we were to change the not proven verdict we had to change the jury system too.

“Some people who got a not proven verdict have said they were just relieved to be set free, but such is the stigma of not proven that others had to live with people thinking they’d ‘got away with it’.

“Numerous people supported the Bill - police, victims’ groups and legal experts - and even the Scottish Government were sympathetic, but as they are looking into corroboration they want to gather their own evidence.

“If I am re-elected in May I will be pushing to bring this back to the table. I am still certain the days of the not proven verdict are numbered.

“It might take another 10 years, but when you consider the three-verdict system has been around for hundreds of years, that isn’t too long to wait.”

Justice committee convener Christine Grahame shared Mr McMahon’s view, but explained why she couldn’t support the Bill.

She said: “Not proven is often deeply unsatisfactory for victims and no better for the accused, and I believe that the verdict is on borrowed time.

“While we understand the reason for including the measures for jury majorities, further research on decision-making by juries is needed before proceeding with the other reforms set out in Mr McMahon’s Bill.”