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Appeal against conviction on the grounds of “mutual corroboration” refused

HMA v AD 2017

A teenager found guilty of raping a boy and sexually assaulting a girl has had an appeal against his conviction refused after judges rejected his argument that the doctrine of “mutual corroboration” could not apply. The Appeal Court held that there was no rule of law whereby a less serious sexual offence could not provide corroboration of a more serious sexual crime.

He was convicted at the High court on two charges: “(1) assaulting a boy aged ten by pushing him on to his bed and pulling down his lower clothing before raping him anally; and (3) assaulting a 12-year-old girl by dragging her into his bedroom, pushing her on to a couch, attempting to remove her clothing and kissing her on her face.” However, counsel for the appellant, Mr Connor, submitted that the evidence led in support of each of charges (1) and (3) was “materially different”. The difference in gravity between the conduct described by each complainer were said to be so significant that the crimes were “not capable of being viewed as part of a single course of criminal conduct”.

There was very little similarity in circumstances it was argued. It was accordingly not possible for the charges to be corroborated through the application of the doctrine of mutual corroboration, as set out in the ‘Moorov Doctinre’. The Crown, however, argued that the evidence led did provide evidence of an “underlying unity of intent” and the evidence disclosed incidents of criminal conduct driven by that underlying unity.

Refusing the appeal, the judges observed that in any given case, in considering whether the evidence led is capable of affording corroboration by the application of mutual corroboration, “it does not of course matter that the crimes are not of the same nomen juris”. In conclusion, Lord Turnbull said: “There is no rule of law whereby what might be perceived as less serious sexual criminal conduct cannot provide corroboration of what is libelled as a more serious sexual crime…In the present case it was accepted that the two charges were closely linked in time and in place.

In our opinion, they were also closely linked in both character and circumstances.” The appeal judges were also fully satisfied that the directions which the trial judge gave were “entirely adequate” in this regard.

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