HMA v Robert Spinks

Mr Robert Spinks was found guilty of a single charge of assault at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in August 2017. This charge comprised of eight separate incidents in a “course of conduct” involving a four-year campaign of domestic abuse. However, he has now had his conviction restricted to just two of those offences. This is after High Court appeal judges have ruled that was no corroboration of any other of the assaults and this is still required in a course of conduct charge.

The High court ruled that both lower courts has erred in holding individual elements of a single charge did not require corroboration. All of these charges were against his former partner and complainer in this case MK. The appellant appealed on the basis that the Sheriff Appeal Court and the sheriff erred in holding that, where a course of conduct had been established in the context of a single charge, individual elements of the charge did not require corroboration.

The Crown submitted however that where there was a course of conduct corroboration of each specific indecent was not require. However, the High Court ruled they could not support this reasoning from the Crown as this would change they already established law of evidence.

Lord Justice General said after accepting the appeal: “A person cannot be convicted of a crime on the evidence of one witness alone. There requires to be corroboration. Where, as here, a complainer speaks to the occurrence of a crime, the crucial facts of her testimony require to be corroborated by testimony from at least one other source.

In the case of a single episode of assault, there is no need for every element of the libel to be corroborated. All that is needed is evidence from another source that some form of assault took place and the appellant perpetrated that assault, at least where the assault involves the same type of conduct. The situation is quite different where there are separate incidents.

In that situation the normal requirement of corroboration applies to each incident.” The appellant’s sentence was reduced from a community payback order with 300 hours unpaid work and a supervision and programme requirement both for two years to a community payback order with only 100 hours unpaid work ad the other requirements were quashed.