This chapter provides an overview of the court system, focusing primarily on the English and Welsh systems. Although there are many similarities with other systems, such as those of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Australia, an attempt to cover the whole range of similarities and differences would require a book in itself. Two differences in the Scottish system are worth mentioning, however. First, Scottish courts attach importance to the concept of corroboration: the requirement that at least two sources of evidence support the facts that might lead to the conviction of an individual. (Corroboration in this form is not required under English and Welsh law.) Second, whereas in England and Wales there are two possible verdicts – ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ – in Scotland there are three possible outcomes from a trial: ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’ and ‘not proven’. While the latter two have the same effect – that the person is acquitted – a ‘not proven’ verdict can be interpreted as suggesting that the person may actually be guilty, but there was insufficient evidence to prove this. Indeed, some other countries have wanted to adopt this third verdict for just that reason, including the US (see Bray, 2005).
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