In 2019, a distinct offence of ‘abusive behaviour towards partner or ex-partner’ (‘domestic abuse’) came into force in Scotland via s. 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. This new offence has been celebrated for its meaningful incorporation of the concept of coercive control (Evan Stark has described the 2018 Act as ‘gold standard’ legislation) and may serve as a model for other jurisdictions looking to criminalise coercive and controlling behaviours. The practical effectiveness of the offence in Scotland, however, will hinge on how Scotland’s corroboration rule, and the accompanying Moorov doctrine (‘Moorov’), are applied in this context. Drawing both on recent doctrinal developments and on a conceptual understanding of the dynamics of coercive control, this article offers the first in-depth analysis of how Moorov is likely to apply in s. 1 cases. It identifies developments that are likely to assist the prosecution, as well as potential barriers to the doctrine’s successful application, and argues that in certain cases judges and jurors will have difficulty seeing the ‘course of conduct’ required by Moorov without proper understanding of the policy underpinning the Act and the gendered nature of domestic abuse. The article considers how this understanding may be brought about, both within the confines of the current law and in terms of possible reform.
The author is extremely grateful to colleagues and the anonymous peer reviewers who offered detailed and insightful feedback on this article prior to publication. Any errors remain my own.
The author is grateful to the Carnegie Trust for funding to examine how the corroboration rule is currently operating in Scottish sexual offence cases. This article arose from some of the research carried out for this funded project.
- Coercive control
- domestic abuse
- similar fact evidence
- sufficiency of evidence
- coercive control