Former St Andrews student says plans to scrap ‘Not Proven’ a victory for rape survivors
A former St Andrews student at the heart of a five-year campaign to end the controversial Not Proven verdict said today’s announcement by the Scottish Parliament that it will be scrapped shows victims’ voices have finally been heard.
After a jury in the criminal case returned a Not Proven verdict against the man who attacked her on a night out in 2013, ‘Miss M’ went on to successfully sue him in the civil courts. Since then, she’s been campaigning with Rape Crisis Scotland for the abolition of the country’s controversial ‘third verdict’, a result she says was “worse than a not guilty verdict”.
Today, the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill, which has cross-party support, looks at a range of Scottish legal processes including the not proven verdict and the size of juries in criminal trials.
Speaking in an exclusive interview for the University of St Andrews’ Scotland’s Future podcast series, ‘Miss M’ said: “I felt like I had no voice after I was raped. I was traumatised and put all my hope in the criminal justice system. I felt powerless and the criminal trial compounded my trauma. The verdict came back as not proven and it left me confused and frustrated that a decision wasn’t made – guilty or not guilty. In many ways, not proven was worse than not guilty.
“I campaigned alongside Rape Crisis Scotland to end the use of the not proven verdict. I’m glad that after five years of campaigning and all the research the Scottish Government has undertaken into jury trials, they’ve announced plans to abolish the Not Proven verdict. It’s fantastic news and shows victims that their voices are heard. A Not Proven verdict doesn’t comfort us and the research shows the verdict is misunderstood and used disproportionately in rape cases. We want a jury to reach a decision which gives us some form of closure.”
‘Miss M’ went on to say: “I want to thank Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the University of St Andrews for all their support over the years. I have gone from being a young student trying to navigate the criminal justice system to working and supporting other rape victims today.”
The decision was welcomed by Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, who also took part in the recent Scotland’s Future Series interview focusing on the Not Proven verdict.
Ms Brindley said: “In Scotland, rape has the lowest conviction rate of any crime type, and the Not Proven verdict is used disproportionately in these cases. There is an urgent need to improve justice responses to rape, and we welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement that the Not Proven verdict will be abolished.
“We were really pleased to take part in this important podcast about our campaign to end the Not Proven verdict, alongside ‘Miss M’, a former student of the University of St Andrews, who has played such a key role in the campaign.”
Miss M retains her right to anonymity.
Scotland’s Future Series is an initiative launched by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE in January 2022 to demonstrate the University’s commitment to playing an active role in developing Scotland’s future by enabling St Andrews staff and students to contribute to and facilitate wider discussions.
The University created a £35,000 fund to support this work. One of the projects to be funded was a podcast and video series which has enabled projects to be showcased and for discussion on a range of pertinent issues, including the war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, and climate change.
Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.