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Summary

  1. PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE TEXT COVERAGE
  2. The European and External Relations Committee took evidence on EU reform and the implications for Scotland
  3. Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed by opposition party leaders during first minister's questions
  4. The Scottish government led a debate on the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2016 [draft], which was passed at decision time
  5. This was followed by a ministerial statement on the Programme of Child Protection Work
  6. This was followed by the Stage 1 debate on the Criminal Verdicts (Scotland) Bill, with MSPs rejecting its general principles at decision time

Live Reporting

By Colin Bell and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That concludes Holyrood Live's coverage of the Scottish Parliament

That concludes Holyrood Live's coverage of the Scottish Parliament for this week.

Holyrood at night
Scottish Parliament

Have a lovely weekend, we're back next Tuesday. 

MSPs pass the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2016

MSPs pass the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2016.  

73 MSPs back it and 35 vote against it.

Decision time in the chamber
BBC

The Scottish Elections (Dates) Bill is passed unanimously.

MSPs vote to not support the general principles of the Criminal Verdicts (Scotland) Bill.

28 MSPs back it but 80 vote against.

'No doubt at all this bill is necessary' says Labour MSP

Mr McMahon says he is no doubt at all that this bill is necessary.

The Labour MSP says the public believe a not proven verdict carries a degree of culpability, the accused "got away with it".

Michael McMahon
BBC

He says the victims can be left confused and disappointed as well.

The Labour MSP says to remove the not proven verdict, convictions must be robust and that is why it must make sense to increase the majority required to convict. 

Minister says governemnt cannot support Criminal Verdicts Bill

The justice secretary concludes by saying the government cannot support the Criminal Verdicts Bill.

Minister says care must be taken in changing system of verdicts

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says it is important to be careful when changes are made to the verdict system.

Mr Matheson says there are different understandings of what a not proven means and the jury research should provide information on this.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
BBC

The justice secretary says the research will provide a significant level of insight as to how juries arrive at their decisions. 

There has never been research into juries in Scotland he says. 

Labour to support general principles of Criminal Verdicts Bill

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson says Victim Support Scotland indicated the not proven verdict can be confusing and disappointing.

The former senior policeman says victims can be left in limbo by the verdict.

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson
BBC

Mr Pearson says there is controversy around this whole area of the justice system.

The Labour MSP says he is pleased Lord Bonomy is chairing the group examining new recommendations.

He hopes the parliament will keep this issue at the front of the agenda and the Labour party will support Mr McMahon's proposal. 

Government adopt a 'pick and mix approach'

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan says the Scottish government have introduced a "pick and mix approach" and this is clear from the corroboration episode.

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan
BBC

Mr Buchanan says the fact that this verdict is used proves that it may not be completely obsolete.

He says he will not be supporting the bill at decision time.

Tory MSP 'hugely concerned' about piecemeal approach to changing justice system

Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell says she recognises some stakeholders believe the three verdict system has had its day.

Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell
BBC

Ms Mitchell remains "hugely concerned" about the piecemeal approach of Scottish ministers to changing the Scottish justice system, pointing to the "corroboration debacle". 

She says the Scottish Conservatives are not convinced there is a compelling need for the change at this time and the party will not support the bill. 

Highest use of not proven verdict in rape cases - Labour MSP

Labour MSP Elaine Murray says she wants the parliament to remove the not proven verdict.

Labour MSP Elaine Murray
BBC

Ms Murray says the highest use of the not proven verdict is in rape cases according to Rape Scotland. 

The Labour MSP says despite not being able to bring her amendment to parliament for the abolition of this acquittal verdict there is support for it in parliament. 

Background: Plans to abolish corroboration in Scottish cases dropped

Last April controversial proposals to abolish the requirement for corroboration in criminal cases were dropped by the Scottish government.

It followed a review which recommended the need for two sources of evidence in criminal cases should be retained in certain circumstances.

Police interview
BBC

As a result the proposal to increase jury majorities was also removed from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

Call for strong evidence base and research of juries

Mr Matheson says Scotland has one of the largest jury sizes in the world at 15.

The justice secretary says the bill's consultations revealed there was clear support for the removal of the not proven verdict there was no consensus to do so alongside creating the need for a two thirds majority.

He calls for a strong evidence base and research of juries before change is instigated.

Government does not back Criminal Verdicts Bill

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson praises Mr McMahon for his efforts in bringing this member's bill to the chamber.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
BBC

Mr Matheson says Lord Bonomy's expert group thought review had to take into account the three verdict system. 

He says the group's recommendations are the main reasons the government cannot back this bill. 

Background: What is the not proven verdict?

  • Scotland, unlike most of the world's legal systems, has three possible verdicts in criminal cases - guilty, not guilty and not proven
  • The legal implications of a not proven verdict are the same as with a not guilty verdict: the accused is acquitted and is innocent in the eyes of the law
  • Not proven is seen by some as offering additional protection to the accused
  • But critics argue that it is confusing for juries and the public, can stigmatise an accused person and fail to provide closure for victims
  • Scottish juries were historically able to return only proven or not proven verdicts
  • A third verdict of not guilty was introduced in the 1700s and became more commonly used than not proven
The High Court of Justiciary
BBC
  • However, the option of returning a verdict of not proven was never removed
  • In more recent years, the general perception has been that a "not proven" verdict suggests a sheriff or jury believes the accused is guilty, but does not have sufficient evidence to convict
  • In 2013-14, the not proven verdict was used in 35% of acquittals following trials for rape or attempted rape
  • This compares with a figure of 17% in the case of acquittals following trial generally (including trials without juries)
  • Overall, only 1% of all criminal court outcomes during each of the five years 2008-09 to 2012-13 involved the case against the accused being found not proven

Majority of justice committee does not support general principles of the bill

Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame says the majority of the committee was unable to support the general principles of the bill.

A clear majority of the committee supported the intention of the bill to abolish the not proven verdict but not the proposal in relation to jury majorities. 

Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame
BBC

The committee considered that the latter proposal should be considered alongside the other reforms proposed by Lord Bonomy.

It hopes that the research on juries announced by the Scottish Government will proceed soon.

A majority of the committee was therefore unable to support the general principles of the bill.

Justice system must be transparent and understood

Mr McMahon calls on parliament to reform the verdicts in Scotland.

Michael Mcmahon
BBC

He says it is essential our justice system is transparent and fully understood by all members of society.  

Background: Criminal Verdicts Bill

This member‟s bill seeks to:

  • remove the "not proven‟ verdict as an option in criminal trials, leaving two possible verdicts of "guilty‟ and "not guilty‟ 
  • change the rules relating to the number of jurors who must support a guilty verdict before the jury as a whole returns such a verdict, effectively requiring at least two-thirds in favour of a guilty verdict   

Not proven verdict 'leaves the accused in limbo'

Mr McMahon says it is a commonly held view that the person who receives a verdict of not proven is stigmatised.

The Labour MSP says the current three verdict system can lead to confusion and leaves the accused in limbo.

Background: Scotland's not proven verdict 'on borrowed time', say MSPs

Scotland's not proven verdict is on "borrowed time" and may not serve any useful purpose, Holyrood's justice committee has concluded.

The committee has been examining the Criminal Verdicts Bill, which would scrap not proven and increase the majority needed for jury trial convictions from eight to ten.

Most committee members backed the removal of the not proven verdict.

But they did not support increasing the jury trial conviction requirement.

Courtroom
BBC

The committee concluded this should be considered alongside other reforms recommended by former High Court judge Lord Bonomy.

Lord Bonomy led an expert group considering what safeguards would need to be put in place if plans to abolish the corroboration requirement in Scotland's criminal justice system went ahead.

The committee said it could not therefore back the general principles of the members' bill, which was introduced by Labour MSP Michael McMahon.

'That bastard verdict'

Mr McMahon says Sir Walter Scott referred to the Not Proven verdict as  "that bastard verdict". 

Sir Walter Scott
BBC
Sir Walter Scott was not a fan of the verdict

End not proven verdict says Labour MSP

Mr McMahon says his bill will end the Not Proven verdict and raise the majority to two thirds.

There would only be the verdicts of guilty or not guilty he says.