New study to look at how juries in Scotland reach verdicts

Written by Jenni Davidson on 25 September 2017 in News

The study will look the Scottish ‘not proven’ verdict and effect of jury size in reaching decisions

High Court in Glasgow - Image credit: Lenn's Pics

A “groundbreaking” new study is to look at how juries in Scotland reach their decisions, including their understanding of Scotland’s controversial ‘not proven’ verdict.

The two-year research project, which was announced by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, will be headed up by market research company Ipsos MORI working in collaboration with Professor James Chalmers and Professor Fiona Leverick of the University of Glasgow law school and Professor Vanessa Munro from the University of Warwick.

The research, which will be carried out using mock juries, will consider optimum jury size, the decision making process, the majority that should be needed for a conviction and Scotland’s three verdict system: guilty, not guilty and not proven.

Questions to be asked include what jurors understand as the difference between non guilty and not proven and why they choose one or the other.


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The study will also look at the difference between a jury of 12 and a jury of 15, whether pre-recorded evidence is assessed differently from evidence heard in open court, and whether there is an advantage to asking the jury to try to reach a unanimous verdict.

The project follows recommendations made by Lord Bonomy in a review of post-corroboration safeguards, with the Scottish Government committing to take forward further research based on the recommendations in its programme for government last year.

Lorraine Murray, Deputy Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be undertaking this important and groundbreaking research – the first of its kind in Scotland.

“With the help of several hundreds of members of the public who will sit on ‘mock juries’, we will be able to provide unique insights into how Scottish juries reach their decisions.” 

Professor James Chalmers added: “Research with mock juries has been used around the world to inform criminal justice reform, but the Scottish jury is so different from juries in other countries there are limits to what can be learned from all this work.

“This study will help us understand just what difference the special features of the Scottish jury system make in practice.”

Michael Matheson said: “This important research is a direct result of Lord Bonomy’s post-corroboration safeguards review in which he recommended that research should be carried out to ensure that any changes to our jury system are made only on a fully informed basis, including the impact having a three verdict system has on decision making.

“The Ipsos MORI team will work in collaboration with three respected academics and will use case simulations rather than real jurors.

“Their findings will help inform any future decisions that may be taken I relation to potential reforms of our criminal justice system.”

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