Acquittal

This is in effect the result of the jury's decision to find the defendant 'not guilty'.

The task of the jury in a criminal trial is to decide as to guilt or innocence.  The two verdicts that a jury can return are 'guilty' or 'not guilty'.  In the event that the jury return a 'not guilty' verdict then the accused is acquitted of the charges against them and is entitled to walk free from the court. 

The jury are not required to give any reasons for their decision. 

In fact the law as framed at present expects the jury's deliberations to be kept confidential.  A  juror may find themselves in contempt of court should they discuss their part in the process or any deliberations that took place. 

The advice and warnings are quite specific and you are told that, as a jury member, you should not discuss the case with anyone except other jury members and then only in the jury deliberation room, nor should you discuss the case even when the trial is over and this includes family members.  The restrictions now specifically mention social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and you are told not to post comments about the trial on such sites. This warning applies during and after the trial.  The penalty is that you may be held to be in contempt of court and this may result in a fine or prison sentence.

Sometimes a person is acquitted despite everyone being certain they are guilty.  This can happen because of a mistake being made in the process leading up to the trial or during the trial or if a jury is unable to reach a decision after a re-trial. There are also times when, despite all the evidence, a jury will return a 'not guilty' verdict. This is known as a perverse verdict and one which does not have to be justified by the jury as they do not have to give a reason for their verdict or explain how they reached it.

We are usually concerned with the law as it applies to England and Wales but Scots law is unusual in allowing three possible verdicts in a criminal trial, guilty, not guilty and not proven. The three verdict system in Scotland goes back to the 1720s. It has a long history but it has been the subject of criticism and debate.  Such questions were raised in 1827 when Sir Walter Scott, a novelist and Sheriff, spoke of the not proven verdict as "that bastard verdict, not proven."  It seems that the three verdict is something peculiar to Scotland as it  does not appear in any other jurisdiction.


The verdict of not proven in Scotland is essentially one of acquittal.

 

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