AN IRVINE father has repeated his call for legislative reform in Scotland ahead of a consultation on the controversial ‘not proven’ verdict closing this week.

Stewart Handling says he is “faced with an unfair feeling every day” after daughter, Grace - who would have been 18 in July - tragically died in June 2018 having taken ecstasy at a house in Arran Place.

Callum Owens was cleared at the High Court in Glasgow in September 2020 of killing the 13-year-old by recklessly supplying her with the lethal drug - and following the jury’s ‘not proven’ verdict, dad Stewart said he would make it his “life’s mission to make sure that the court laws are updated”.

Speaking to the Times this week as a Scottish Government consultation on potential reforms to the system gets set to end on Friday (March 11), Stewart, 52, said his stance remains that a two-tier verdict system would suffice.

READ MORE: Teenager walks free from court after Grace drug death tragedy

He said: “Not guilty is clearing somebody’s name, guilty is condemning them, but not proven is neither here nor there.

“It doesn’t give you any kind of closure whatsoever.

“Every day I am faced with this unfair feeling. It doesn’t go away unfortunately.”

Stewart said the outcome of the trial has had a “devastating effect” on his family - and he said more transparency throughout the process may have helped them deal with their grief, even if the verdict was not what they were hoping for.

“I would say they should definitely scrap it [the not proven verdict],” he said, “but if they do keep it I think they should bring in more thorough protocols to explain their decision.

“If they keep it, a jury member must write a statement to substantiate their decision when it comes down to not proven.

“It is Scotland’s wee mark on the world. We’ve got Robert Burns, Billy Connolly and not proven, but it’s not a good mark to have.

READ MOREIrvine dad haunted by daughter Grace’s death after teenager walks free

“Not proven is not in the interests of the victim or their family.

“It always hangs over you and it’s not fair for the person who has been charged either. You can be the devil’s advocate and say it works both ways.”

The three-month public consultation, which opened in December, has been seeking views on the potential abolishment of the not proven verdict, with justice secretary, Keith Brown, stating that the aim is to “ensure the system remains relevant and contemporary in the 21st century”.

The not proven verdict is almost exclusively applied in Scots law and is essentially the same as a not guilty verdict in that the accused is acquitted and generally cannot be tried again.