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  • Major changes proposed to justice system

    Created: 28/04/2023
    News/Events Category: General News

    The Scottish Government has published a new Bill that aims to make major changes to the justice system in Scotland.

    The Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, introduced in parliament by Justice Secretary Angela Constance MSP on 25 April, seeks to "improve the experience of victims and witnesses in the justice system" and "improve the fairness, clarity and transparency of the framework within which decisions in criminal cases are made".

    The proposed reforms include:

    • the introduction of a specialist sexual offence court
    • a right to anonymity for victims of certain sexual offences
    • a pilot of single-judge rape trials, mitigating the prospect of "rape myths" influencing verdicts
    • the abolition of the not proven verdict, to reduce stigmatisation of those acquitted of offences in this way
    • the reduction of jury sizes from 15 to 12 (though with the required majority remaining at 8 in most cases)

    The Bill has broadly been welcomed by charities supporting victims of sexual offences, including Rape Crisis Scotland, although they and others note that the change in jury majority from 8/15 to 8/12 may have a detrimental impact on conviction rates.

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