JM v HMA 2018

JM was found guilty of sexual offences against two children almost 17 years apart. However, he has had his conviction quashed following an High Court appeal. The High Court ruled that the similarities between the offences were not “sufficiently compelling” to overcome the “very substantial time gap”. JM was charged with sexual offences against two complainers.

It was stated by complainers that it was a serious of incidents that occurred between September and December 1997 in relation to one complainer and between December 2014 and July 2015 in relation to the other complainer. This was a 17 year period in between these offences. The issue which was appealed against was whether there was sufficient evidence to justify the application of the doctrine of mutual corroboration, as set out on Moorov v HM Advocate 1930 JC 68. The Trial Sheriff admitted that while there was no limit in which the doctrine could apply, for this to apply over a 17 year period there has to be some “extraordinary or compelling feature.” He thereafter concluded in this case there were such features.

However, on appeal it was argued there was not enough evidence to suggest that the conduct formed part of “a course of conduct systematically pursued” by the appellant and there were not striking points of similarity that could overcome this time period. The crown even accepted this time period was a “considerable hurdle.” However, they could see similarities in the conduct. However, the crowns argument was not accepted.

In conclusion, Lord Justice Clerk said: “In our view the circumstances of this case present no compelling circumstances capable of overcoming the very substantial time gap.”..“The position is exactly as was described in RB v HM Advocate 2017 JC 278 para 33: ‘There are, of course, similarities in the conduct, but they are the similarities which one might expect to find in any two offences of this kind.

There are no similarities of such a striking or extraordinary nature which might suggest that the two offences were part of the same course of conduct, systematically pursued by the appellant. The evidence in the present case suggests two separate courses of conduct, albeit arising from a particular disposition.’