Wednesday, 10 December 2008

"Trial by Jury" is over. But one final thought.

That's it all done and dusted: I am no longer a juror and cannot be recalled for 5 years. My experience of the system was that it was quite fair (well, as near as is humanly possible and within the constraints of the Scottish legal system). It was a bit different from watching "Crown Court" in days of yore: 15 jurors, not 12 (no chance of a hung jury); no opening speeches a la Perry Mason - straight into the evidence (rather more business like really). But I have one question and that's to do with the choice of verdicts available.

Unlike England and the USA, Scottish juries are not faced with the simple choice of "Guilty" or "Not Guilty". They have the 3rd option of "Not Proven". It's effect is exactly the same as "Not Guilty" - the accused is acquitted and cannot be re-tried for this offence. But what does it mean? We can't make up our mind? We think you did it but the Crown hasn't proved its case? We think something happened but we don't think it's what the Prosecuting Fiscal (as they are known in Glasgow) put in the charge? Or we're not impressed by the Crown case and we don't think you're telling the whole story either!

I'm open to comments and information on this. For what it's worth, I think of it as the "Aye, but" verdict. The jury doesn't think the Crown has proved it's case beyond reasonable doubt but is unsure of the accused's total innocence. They cannot convict, but register almost a passing comment. Perhaps it's very existence reflects that part of the Scottish character which is willing to play fair but also likes to have it's say. I really wonder. I'm not sure I think there is a place for this in the legal system myself: judge the facts and the evidence it is not a court of morals but a court of law.

But it was a fascinating experience.

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