Trial by jury in Scotland

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In Scotland trial by jury 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 some important differences.

In Scotland there has never been a requirement for verdicts to be unanimous; they are reached by simple majority. (People were occasionally hanged on majority verdicts in Scotland, e.g. Susan Newell.)

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 (for example, because of illness); a minimum of 12 is needed to continue. The backing of at least eight jurors is needed to return a guilty verdict, even if the number drops below 15. It is not possible to have a hung jury; if there is not sufficient support for any verdict then this 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 (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 completely 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, they just 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; Scottish courts have set themselves against any form of jury vetting.

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