Trial by jury in Scotland

Trial by jury in Scotland is used in serious criminal cases and, less commonly, in civil cases. There are some similarities with the jury system in England and Wales but also some important differences.

In Scotland, there has never been a requirement for verdicts in a trial by jury to be unanimous; they are reached by simple majority. (Some people were executed on majority verdicts in Scotland, such as Susan Newell, who had one juror dissenting.)

Much of the law covering criminal cases is contained in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. They have a jury of 15 in case jurors drop out, such as from illness. At least 12 are needed to continue. At least 8 jurors are for a guilty verdict even if the total number of jurors drops to below 15.

It is not possible to have a hung jury; if there is not sufficient support for any verdict it is treated as a verdict of not guilty. The jury has a choice of three verdicts: guilty (a conviction), not guilty (acquittal) and not proven (also acquittal).

Civil cases have a jury of 12, with a minimum of 10 needed for the trial to continue. It is possible to have a hung jury if it is still tied after at least three hours deliberation.

The rules of eligibility for jury service are broadly similar to England, but some people with legal experience are excluded.

In criminal cases, there need to be at least 30 potential jurors present in the court for the balloting of a jury to begin. The names of the potential jurors are written on paper slips and drawn out of a glass bowl in open court by the clerk. The jurors then take the oath collectively and swear by "almighty God" without using any religious text. Those who prefer to affirm then do so collectively.

The pool of potential jurors is chosen purely at random, and Scottish courts have set themselves against any form of jury vetting.

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