A sheriff in Livingston Sheriff Court has determined that a charge under Section 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 of engaging in a course of abusive behaviour against an accused’s ex-partner was able to be sufficiently corroborated by Crown evidence.
The charge against the accused was that he repeatedly struck his partner on the body and head, persistently demanded sexual intercourse and refusing to use contraception, threatening her with violence and accusing her of infidelity. 
The Crown led evidence from both the complainer and her friend who had provided the couple with advice about contraception. Further to this, the accused had admitted in a police interview that he had slapped the complainer hard enough to leave a handprint as a joke. He also admitted that he sent her threatening test messages. 
It was argued for the accused that the behaviour in the charge comprised three separate incidents that each required to be corroborated and did not amount to a ‘course of behaviour’. The Crown submitted that Section 1 of the 2018 Act amounted to a single crime consisting of a course of abusive behaviour. The acts did not require separate corroborating as they were connected. 
Sheriff Kinloch considered the case of Finlay v HMA (2020): “Where a charge libels a number of separate criminal acts, each such act requires to be corroborated, but that in some cases there might be room for uncertainty as to whether the events set out in the libel constituted a single criminal act or a succession of separate criminal acts, and in every case that is a matter of fact and degree. It was also said in the Finlay case, it is not possible to ‘avoid the need for each such act to be individually corroborated simply by asserting that they were all part of a single course of conduct’.”
In considering the 2018 Act, Sheriff Kinloch continued: “Although a charge under Section 1 will always include an allegation that a number of incidents took place, a charge under Section 1 really has to be seen as a charge that the accused committed a single crime, namely the crime of engaging in a course of abusive behaviour. Without a course of behaviour there is no crime.”
Considering this in light of the facts of the case he stated: “The Crown accepted that the complainer’s evidence was limited to allegations of the accused striking her, persistently demanding sexual intercourse, and demanding that she meet with him and issuing threats as to what he would do if she did not. Each of these three acts, in my view, falls within the definition of abusive behaviour as given in the 2018 Act.”
Sheriff Kinloch concluded: “It seems to me that the evidence in the present case can therefore be seen as evidence which in law is sufficient to show that the accused committed the single crime of engaging in a course of abusive behaviour. On this reasoning, it follows that corroboration of each separate incident is not required. What is required is corroboration of two or more instances of behaviour, whether or not the behaviour looked at in isolation would amount to a crime.”
As a result, the sheriff held that the no case to answer submission failed.