THE scrapping of Scotland’s controversial not proven verdict will be a “bittersweet” moment, according to the bereaved father of tragic Irvine teen, Grace Handling.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that if the abolition of the verdict is approved by MSPs as part of a new Criminal Justice Bill it will be “a change of truly historic significance”, adding that it is “one firmly intended to improve access to justice for victims of crime”.

Stewart Handling, whose daughter Grace died at the age of just 13 after taking ecstasy at a house in Irvine four years ago, was involved in a Scottish Government consultation earlier this year on reforming the legal system after the man who admitted giving Grace the fatal pills was acquitted of killing her following a not proven decision.

Speaking to the Times previously, grieving Stewart said he is “faced with an unfair feeling every day”, and admitted that the outcome of the High Court trial did not give his family “any kind of closure whatsoever”.

After it was revealed that an end could be in sight for the much-maligned three-verdict model, he stopped short of declaring the result as a victory in his campaign for change - but did convey his delight at the news.

“Victory is a strong word, it’s bittersweet,” he said. "It was a shock, the whole thing, with how quick it happened.

READ MORE: Grieving Irvine dad demands end to 'not proven' verdict in courts

“I’m really pleased that the Scottish Government have been democratic here, and bold. They have listened to victims and their families more than they’ve listened to legal bodies.

“This now gives everybody a level playing field, for the accused and the victim, instead of having two chances to be freed or get off with something.

“It’s a good reward for everybody who has campaigned for it and anybody who has been on the receiving end of the not proven verdict.”

Stewart said he didn’t hold out much hope before the process began, but he campaigned for change because he was “angry that Grace had been killed and that nobody had faced justice”.

He said: “I still feel the same way, that nobody has been punished for her death, even though she willingly took the deadly pills.

“Campaigning to get the not proven verdict abolished was the only avenue I had to try to change this situation, so I had to put my heart and soul into it.

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

“I have done this for other people, it’s no use to Grace. I knew my daughter, I know she made a mistake, but my God did she pay the price.”

The Law Society of Scotland said it was “deeply concerned” about the move, claiming it may risk an increase in miscarriages of justice.

However, Victim Support Scotland said they welcomed the Scottish Government's proposals.

A spokesperson said: “For a number of years we have supported victims who have experienced the not proven verdict. The result of this verdict is disappointing and confusing, and has made many feel they cannot move forward with their lives.

“We look forward to working alongside the Scottish Government to shape a criminal justice system that puts victims at the centre, and we will continue to ensure everyone affected by crime is appropriately supported.”

West Scotland Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said: “Scottish Conservatives have been demanding the abolition of this outdated not proven verdict for a considerable time.

“Getting rid of not proven is just one step the SNP Government must take to rebalance our justice system in favour of victims of crime rather than criminals.”