APPEAL COURT, HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
OPINION OF THE COURT
THE HON. LORD KIRKWOOD
CONTINUED STATED CASE
MARY LOCHRIE McWILLIAMS
PROCURATOR FISCAL, FALKIRK
Appellant: Shead; Macbeth Currie & Co,
Respondent: Mulholland, A.D.
30 April 1999
The appellant in this appeal by stated case is Mary McWilliams who was convicted at Falkirk District Court of three contraventions of section 78(1) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. The charges narrated that between 5 and 7 January 1996 outside the house at 30 Castleview Terrace, Haggs, Banknock, she had scored three motor cars with a nail or similar instrument. All three cars had been parked undamaged in the street on Friday, 5 January. The next day it was found that the word "whore" had been scored into the bonnet of one car in letters about six inches long and the word "prick" had similarly been scored into the bonnet of the second car. The next day it was noticed that the word "prick" had been scored into the tailgate of the third car, this damage not having been noticed on the Saturday. Two of the cars belonged to residents of 30 Castleview Terrace and the third belonged to a relative.
The appellant was the daughter of the family who lived at 32 Castleview Terrace. The Crown led evidence from four witnesses, all of whom had been in the house at 32 Castleview Terrace on the Friday evening, that the appellant had admitted to each of them that she had damaged some cars. George McWilliams gave evidence that late on the Friday night the appellant, who had obviously been drinking, came to the door and said that she had scraped the next door neighbour's car. He could see one of the cars from the window and he could also see what he thought was writing scratched on it. The appellant had also said "I'll teach they bastards". John McWilliams gave evidence that on the Friday night between 12 midnight and 1am the appellant, who was intoxicated, came to the door and said that she had scratched the cars next door. She also said that she would "teach these bastards a lesson" and that she had written "prick" and stuff like that. She left the house and he saw her standing outside next to one of the cars, a Ford Granada, for a few minutes, looking in the window and then walking off. Karen McNally said that on the Friday evening the appellant had come to the door at about midnight and said that she had scratched some motors. Gillian Kerr stated that the appellant had come into the house after midnight and said that she had scratched next door's cars. The appellant had said that she had got her revenge or revenge was sweet or something to that effect. She was asked what she was talking about and she said that she had scratched their cars and had written "pricks" and "whore" all over them. There was evidence from these witnesses that the appellant appeared to be angry and agitated. There was police evidence that when the appellant was charged with the three acts of vandalism she had stated in reply to the first charge, "I don't know anything about it" and that she had made no reply to the other charges.
At the close of the Crown case the appellant's agent submitted that there was no case to answer as there was insufficient evidence. While there was evidence that the appellant had made admissions to four witnesses, her admissions could not be categorised as "special knowledge" confessions as the cars were parked in the street and the damage could readily be observed by any passer-by. In the circumstances there was no corroboration of her admissions. The procurator fiscal on the other hand submitted that there was other evidence linking the appellant with the offences which was capable of corroborating her admissions. The justice repelled the plea of no case to answer and the appellant gave evidence denying that she had been responsible for the damage to the three cars. The justice did not find the appellant to be a credible witness and he took the view that her admissions were adequately corroborated by her undisputed presence at the locus both before and after the alleged incident and her clear opportunity to commit the offences. In these circumstances he found her guilty of all three charges.
At the hearing of the appeal counsel for the appellant submitted that the appellant's admissions did not amount to a special knowledge confession. There required to be corroboration of the admissions which she had made and the only fact on which the justice could have founded as constituting corroboration was her presence at the locus and that was not sufficient. Evidence that she was drunk and also angry and agitated would not add anything to the Crown case. The advocate depute submitted that the clear admissions made by the appellant were corroborated by facts and circumstances which had been established in the evidence and in particular he founded upon (1) the fact that she was shown to have been near the locus at a time shortly after the cars had been damaged; (2) she was drunk and expressing animosity and antagonism towards the owners of the cars; and (3) she knew what had been scratched on the vehicles and that they were next door's cars.
Having regard to the fact that the damage to the cars could have been visible to a person walking along the street outside, we do not consider that the appellant's confession can properly be regarded as a special knowledge confession. However, she did make clear and unequivocal admissions of having been responsible for scratching the cars outside and in these circumstances the question for our determination is whether there were facts and circumstances established which provided corroboration of those admissions. In our opinion the submissions made by the advocate depute were well founded and the evidence on which he relied was sufficient to corroborate the admissions which were made by the appellant. In the circumstances we consider that the justice was entitled to convict the appellant on all three charges. We will answer question 1 in the negative and questions 2 and 3 in the affirmative and refuse the appeal.