Criminal Justice Committee seek views on juryless trials

Criminal Justice Committee seek views on juryless trials

The Criminal Justice committee is calling for views on the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, which includes proposals for a pilot of juryless trials.

The Scottish government bill aims to improve the experiences of complainers and witnesses within Scotland’s justice system – in particular, the complainers of sexual crime.

The bill proposes a number of changes, including the introduction of a new victims and witnesses commissioner, changes to the size of juries, the abolition of the ‘not proven’ verdict, a new Sexual Offences Court and a pilot of juryless trials.

Once the call for views closes, the committee intend to consider the bill in three phases.

Phase 1 will focus upon, among other things:

Establishing a new Victims and Witnesses Commissioner whose main function would be to promote and support the rights and interests of victims and witnesses.

Phase 2 will consider provisions such as:

  • Making changes to the size of juries
  • The abolition of the not proven verdict;

And Phase 3 will look at proposals including:

  • A new Sexual Offences Court
  • And a pilot of rape trials conducted by a single judge without a jury.
  • It is expected that the committee will complete Stage 1 scrutiny in early 2024.

As the inquiry launched, Criminal Justice committee convener, Audrey Nicoll MSP, said: “As a committee, we know there is a great deal of public interest in this bill and we intend to consider its provisions in a thorough and balanced way.

“The bill proposes a number of fundamental changes to the justice system in Scotland and it is essential that these changes act to improve the experience of victims and witnesses.

“We recognise the controversy over some aspects of this bill but it is important that the committee hears from all sides before forming any conclusions. Our call for views is now open and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on the various provisions in the bill.”

Respond to the call for views here. It closes on 8 September 2023.

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