Scotland Recognizes “Guilty” and “Not Guilty” Verdicts, But There’s Also a Third Verdict

Not only does Scottish law differ from American law, Scotland even has different court structures and procedures. One of the first things we learn when crimes are tried in American courts is that the jury can return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. This is not the case in Scotland. Under Scottish law, there’s a third possible verdict the jury can return: not proven. Both not guilty and not proven verdicts result in the acquittal of the accused. The not proven verdict implies that the jury believed the accused to be guilty, but didn’t think the prosecution made their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Between the Restoration in the late 17th century and the early 18th century, jurors in Scotland were expected only to find whether individual factual allegations were proven or not proven, rather than to rule on the defendant’s guilt. Today there are calls for reform, and in April 2023, the Scottish government proposed a bill which, if passed, will abolish the not proven verdict.