Thursday, April 20, 2006

English law may adopt Scots 'not proven' verdict

From the Scotsman:
"The 'not proven' verdict unique to Scots law could be introduced into the English legal system, the government signalled yesterday.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, announced that officials in London will study the possibility of incorporating the principle of a third verdict to some English legal proceedings."
Allow me to explain how this works: the Not Proven verdict is a legal facility that allows the court to say, in effect,
"We think you did it. In fact we fucking know you did it. We cannae prove it but you better watch your step, ya wee bastard."
This is why Sir Walter Scot - of the Edinburgh monument, Rob Roy fame - described it as "that bastard verdict".

No it isn't - but you can see why the whole guilty by suspicion thing would appeal to Charles Clarke and, by extension, why it may not be such a good idea.

And if that isn't reason enough, there's the unnecessary expense-saving justification (see Jack Straw, trial by jury, economic arguments for the abolition of, circa 1997-2001) that should trigger a few alarm bells:
"(T)he Home Secretary made his suggestion as part of a wider overhaul of the criminal appeal system in England and Wales, which will attempt to reduce the money paid in compensation to people who suffer miscarriages of justice."
In this context, the attractions of the Not Proven verdict should be obvious:

"We think you did it. In fact we fucking know you did it. We cannae prove it - we thought we could but now we cannae - but we still know you did it, ya wee bastard. Compensation? Here's ten-bob, now fuck off."

Chuckles hopes to save five million quid with this cunning plan.

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