Friday , April 23 2021

End Not Proven campaign aims to eliminate 'confusing' verdict in Scotland

A woman who won a civil case of rape is spearheading a new campaign to end the unproven verdict in Scottish criminal trials.

The woman, known as Miss M, is accompanied by a series of women's and anti-violence organizations, urging that the "confused" verdict be dropped.

The End Not Proven campaign argues that it is used disproportionately in cases of sexual violence and fears it will give juries an "easy way out" when they reach a decision.

They say they want to hear the experiences – positive or negative – of people who have been affected by the unproven verdict.

Miss M, who can not be appointed for legal reasons, was awarded £ 80,000 in damages last month against a man who had previously been acquitted of raping her.

She sued Stephen Coxen, accusing him of raping her in St Andrews, Fife, after one night in September 2013.

Coxen of Bury in Lancashire denied the allegations and in November 2015 a jury acquitted him of an unproven verdict in a criminal trial.

Following a recent civil lawsuit at the Personal Injury Tribunal at the Sheriff's Court building in Edinburgh, Sheriff Robert Weir QC ruled that he had been raped.

Miss M said: "It is not justice that motivated me to start this campaign to end the unproven verdict in Scotland, it was injustice."

Exceptionally, Scotland has three verdicts – guilty, innocent and unproven. Innocent and not proven to have the same result, both being verdicts of acquittal.

Miss M said the unproven verdict is "clouded over with ambiguity."

"The certainty we apply to the guilty and not guilty does not apply to unproven," she said.

"Among the uncertainties, what we know for sure is that unproven is most commonly used in cases of rape and sexual violence.

"I fear – as someone who has received an unproven verdict and spent three long years fighting the Scottish legal system later – that the unproven verdict means that those who are raped are unjustly left without justice and those who rape have no consequences, no sanction for their actions.

"What message does this send to society?

"Reporting rape will never be easy, but I should not have to fight the justice system in my quest for justice. It did not have to be so difficult.

"I'm asking the Scottish government to give the survivors a chance. There is no convincing argument to keep the verdict out of date, it's time for unscrupulous scrap forever. "