Lord Justice General
HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
OPINION OF THE COURT
THE HONOURABLE LORD SUTHERLAND
NOTE OF APPEAL AGAINST CONVICTION
MARIE KELLY KERR INGRAM
HER MAJESTY'S ADVOCATE
Respondent: Di Rollo, A.D.
31 March 1999
This is the appeal of Marie Kelly Kerr Ingram who was convicted on a charge of assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Originally there was an appeal against sentence but that has been abandoned.
The only ground of appeal against conviction is that directions given by the sheriff on the issue of corroboration were inadequate and confusing. The jury would not have understood what the sheriff meant when he gave those directions. The directions we are concerned with are in the following terms:
"No-one can be convicted in a Scottish court of a crime of this kind without corroborated evidence. Corroborated evidence simply means evidence from more than one source. It may be two witnesses, or it may be one witness, or it may be circumstantial evidence, blood stains or photographs, injuries, so on and so forth, but there must be corroborated evidence that the accused committed the crime before you could find her guilty. That is what we mean by corroboration."
In most parts that direction is accurate, albeit somewhat brief, although in the context of this case it may be that only comparatively brief references were required to corroboration. The unfortunate thing is however, that what the sheriff says at one stage is that corroboration could be from one witness when he refers to "it may be two witnesses, or it may be one witness, or it may be circumstantial evidence, etc." As he has previously said that corroborated evidence could mean evidence from more than one source it is just possible that a jury could have understood that one witness can give evidence, for example, as to the nature of the assault and the nature of the injuries and that that would be evidence from two separate sources albeit from the mouth of one witness. On any view, however, to say that corroborated evidence can be from one witness alone quite plainly is a misdirection and in our view the advocate depute virtually accepted that to be so.
This is a case where the main issue was one of credibility, as the account given by the complainer and corroborated by her father and the medical evidence, in part at least, was entirely different to the account given by the appellant and her sister. The two accounts bore little resemblance to each other and quite plainly what the jury had to decide was which of the two sets of evidence they were going to accept. In our view, however, while there might have been something to be said for saying that directions on corroboration in a case of this nature might justifiably have been very brief, the fact remains that when directions are given they have to be accurate. Quite plainly in this case, in our view, there has been a material misdirection and in these circumstances we shall allow this appeal.