8th May 2014
William Walker’s first, second and third wife had charged him with various counts of domestic violence, alleged to have taken place over a number of decades.
The appeal relates only to the first two charges, made by Walker’s first wife. The appellant argued that the length of time between these initial charges and later charges by Walker’s other wives was too large for the doctrine of mutual corroboration to be applied. The latest date in charge 2, by his first wife, was 31 December 1969, and the earliest date of later allegations was 1 January 1978. The appellant further pointed to the differences in the location and circumstances of these charges: the locus of charge 1 was a motor vehicle on a public street and the locus of charge 2 was the complainer’s parents’ home while they were present. This more public violence differs to the majority of other charges, which occurred in private or in the presence of very young children.
In reaching a decision, the sheriff cited MR v HMA (2013) HCJAC 8, where the court said:
“What the court is looking for are the conventional similarities in time, place and circumstances in the behaviour proved in terms of the libel… such as demonstrate that the individual incidents are component parts of one course of criminal conduct persistently pursued by the accused … Whether these similarities exist will often be a question of fact and degree…”
While there were some differences in the earlier charges, the sheriff recognised that Walker’s violent behaviour was always within a close, domestic relationship and that he demonstrated a similar pattern of behaviour within each such relationship. The sheriff further noted that there was no maximum interval of time beyond which the doctrine of mutual corroboration could be applied, especially when the lapse in time between charges was related to a series of marriages. In the sheriff’s view, it is entirely inappropriate to isolate charges 1 and 2, when the complainer spoke of a continuous course of conduct towards her during her marriage. The court concluded the that sheriff was right to hold that there was a criminal conduct in the way of serial violence to successive partners and that the appeal should be denied.