• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Rape accuser: my case shows why need for corroboration should be scrapped

THE woman at the centre of Scotland's most high-profile rape case has waived her right to anonymity and spoken out for the first time because she believes corroboration should be abolished.

Mary Ann Davison accused fellow student Edward Watt of rape at a trial in 2001, but when he was acquitted the case set off a chain of events that led to the transformation of the law across the country.

The judge in the case ruled the accused had no case to answer because there was no evidence that force had been used in the alleged rape, which was an essential requirement for the charge of rape in 2001.

The decision provoked fury among women's groups and led to the establishment of a seven-judge panel to consider the definition of rape and a review of Scotland's rape law.

Mrs Davison, who now lives in England, says she has made the difficult decision to speak out because she wants victims of sexual offences who do not necessarily have corroborative evidence to have a "chance of justice which is currently being denied them".

She said: "What had happened to me was deeply personal but I was ­determined to keep my head down and try to get on with my life.

"I have now watched the debate on corroboration and feel it is important to state the other side.

"There has been a lot of public opposition to the removal of corroboration. The people who want to keep corroboration talk about history, but the fact it has been in Scots law since time immemorial does not seem to be a good reason for keeping something.

"People talk about the fear that the removal of corroboration will lead to miscarriages of justice, but what about the people now who are living with the traumatic memories of an attack? Is that injustice not just as important?"

At his trial at the High Court in Aberdeen, Mr Watt alleged that Mrs Davison had been a willing partner and denied the charges.

After his acquittal, he threatened to sue Mrs Davison because of the impact that the court case and surrounding publicity had had on his life.

In 2011 the Carloway Review called for broad changes to the criminal justice system, including the abolition of the historic need for corroboration.

Figures from the Crown Office show that in 2012-13 there were 2803 charges of domestic abuse that could not be taken to court because there was insufficient admissible evidence.

And, over the last two years, about 13% of rape cases - approximately 170 - reported to the Crown could not proceed because of the requirement for corroboration.

"Lord Carloway talked about moving to a fairer criminal justice system for everyone," said Mrs Davison. "That does not diminish the rights of the accused.

"At the minute there just does not seem to be any appreciation of just how big a problem this is in sexual cases because the demand for corroboration prevents so many cases from even getting to court.

"Opponents of corroboration have criticised the 'bleeding hearts' argument in relation to victims, but the

impact of this is not something victims are making up."

She added: "It is crucial that Scotland gets this right."

Legislation currently going through the Scottish Parliament is set to abolish corroboration but it has met with opposition from lawyers, judges and academics.

Mrs Davison said: "I look at where I am now in my life - I think people at the time thought my life had been ruined. It has not been, but the impact is still there. I don't think it will ever be possible to fully come to terms with what happened. It was such a massive deal to stand in that court room and give evidence. Later, I remember going to my supervisor at university and asking for an extension of my essay because the guy I accused of rape had threatened to sue me.

"I'm now living in England. I have a husband and children and a full-time job."

Plans to remove the requirement for corroboration are still being debated by the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

The Herald was unable to contact Mr Watt.

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

201755