A two year research project into juries in Scotland is to be commissioned by the Scottish Government, following recommendations in a review by Lord Bonomy.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson confirmed ministers' intentions in a letter to Margaret Mitchell MSP, convener of Holyrood's Justice Committee. The research will not involve live cases, thus avoiding problems with the Contempt of Court Act, but will adopt "a mixed-method approach using case simulation and literature review(s)". Case simulations involve mock jurors to research the dynamics of jury decision making.

Lord Bonomy's recommendations, part of his Post-corroboration Safeguards Review, undertaken when the abolition of the corroboration rule was before the Scottish Parliament, were that jury research should include:

  • what jurors understand to be the difference between not guilty and not proven;
  • why they choose one of these verdicts over the other; 
  • why, and to what extent, they alter their position in relation to these verdicts during deliberations;
  • the extent to which members of a jury of 15 (as opposed to one of 12) actually participate in deliberations;
  • the differences in outcome between a jury of 12 with two possible verdicts, and one of 15 with three possible verdicts, and the reasons for these; and 
  • whether there are benefits in requiring the jury to try and reach a unanimous verdict.

Following meetings with interested parties, Mr Matheson has decided to include two additional topics:

  • methods of conveying information to jurors; and 
  • whether evidence given in open court is assessed differently from evidence that is pre-recorded.

Officials have been preparing a notice to start the procurement process for the research. Its publication is expected today (21 November).

Click here to view the letter.