The Moorov Doctrine and Coercive Control: Proving a ‘Course of Behaviour’ under Section 1 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018

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Abstract

In 2019, a distinct offence of ‘abusive behaviour towards partner or ex-partner’ (‘domestic abuse’) came into force in Scotland via section 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 on both recent doctrinal developments, and 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 section 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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Evidence and Proof
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Coercive control
  • corroboration
  • domestic abuse
  • similar fact evidence
  • sufficiency of evidence

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