FCRG, Open Psychology Research Centre, Psychology, Student news

Dr Lee Curley with BBC Radio Scotland about Jurors in Scotland

Released on 27 Apr 2022, Dr Lee Curley from the School of Psychology & Counselling (The OU) about his talk on radio

I was lucky enough to talk on BBC Radio Scotland about the research we have conducted on jurors in Scotland. This has been an extensive programme of research that has been conducted by Dr Lara Frumkin, Dr Jim Turner, Dr James Munro and myself, as well as colleagues at the University of Glasgow. Last year at the Open Psychology Research Centre launch (OPRC), I discussed some of the controversial issues of the system (including the not proven verdict) from a legal perspective. At that point, we had conducted one juror study, finding that jurors were less likely to convict in the Anglo-American binary-verdict system of guilty and not guilty when compared to the Scottish three-verdict system of guilty, not guilty and not proven (which is a second acquittal verdict). We had also conducted a second study evaluating the attitudes of legal professionals towards the verdict system and other Scottish specific differences in the courtroom (15 jurors rather than 12, for instance). The headline finding at the time was that legal professionals advocated for a proven and not proven verdict system over either a guilty and not guilty system or a guilty, not guilty and not proven system. Some suggested the role of the jury centres on proof and that a proven and not proven system would direct jurors to this in a nuanced manner. From this, we followed up with a study investigating the effects of a proven and not proven verdict system on conviction rates when compared to the guilty and not guilty verdict system and the guilty, not guilty and not proven verdict system. This latest study is what I was discussing on the radio, and what was reported on in the Times and Telegraph recently.

The results of this study are interesting. We found that jurors were most likely to convict in the Anglo-American binary-verdict system of guilty and not guilty, and that there was no significant difference in conviction rates when comparing the binary-verdict system of proven and not proven with the three-verdict system of guilty, not guilty and not proven; jurors in the latter two systems were significantly less likely to convict when compared to the former system. Therefore, our results showed that it was not the amount of verdicts available that was important, rather it was the name of the verdicts that seemed to be the most important factor; with verdict systems with the not proven verdict leading to the lowest conviction rates. Another interesting finding from this study is that our mock jurors seemed to have little awareness of each of the factors that makes the Scottish jury system unique. For example, most mock jurors gave incorrect answers in relation to how many jurors are on a jury in Scotland (N = 15) and what verdicts are available to jurors (guilty, not guilty and not proven).

If you would like to know more about our research, please see the following links for some of my talks on the topic:

Radio Interview: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0016qxz (2:13).

Talk 1: https://oupsychology.wordpress.com/2021/09/10/informing-reform-does-the-not-proven-verdict-have-a-place-in-a-modern-courtroom/ 

Talk 2: https://oupsychology.wordpress.com/2021/11/30/in-dialogue-with-dr-lee-curley-about-his-talk-at-the-oprc-launch-event/

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