A piece in yesterday’s Telegraph:
Outcry as Court of Appeal upholds ‘lenient’ five-year jail term for man who killed his wife after a period of depression
A judge has been criticised after refusing to increase the five-year prison sentence handed out to a pensioner who strangled his wife to death just days into the first UK lockdown.
Anthony Williams, 70, killed his 67-year-old wife, Ruth, at their home in Cwmbran, South Wales, on the morning of March 28 last year, after he “snapped” following a period of feeling depressed and anxious.
Williams, 70, who admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, was jailed for five years in February after a jury cleared him of murder.
His sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal after campaigners said it was unduly lenient and sent the wrong message to domestic abuse victims.
But Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mrs Justice Farbey and Judge Paul Sloan QC, sparked anger when he refused to increase the sentence, claiming the case could not be classified as domestic abuse and insisting the homicide could be “wholly explained by his illness”.
He said: “This is not in our view properly classified as a case of domestic abuse. There was no history of controlling behaviour or coercive behaviour or any previous incidents of violence or abuse … Quite the contrary.”
The judges later said the couple appeared to have had a “long and loving marriage”.
But Harriet Harman, the Labour MP, hit out at the comments, describing them as “fatuous”.
She said: “Saying Williams’ actions are wholly explained by his illness shows the courts are simply still too ready to accept excuses.
“Domestic abuse doesn’t have to be continuous, although it usually is. It can be a one-off homicide.
“To say it’s not domestic abuse, when a man kills his wife, is fatuous. This is the ultimate, most extreme form of domestic abuse.”
David Challen, the anti-domestic violence campaigner, and son of Sally Challen, who killed her husband after years of coercive control, said the judgment sent a very worrying message to victims.
He said: “It is rather outrageous that this judgment comes just a day after the Domestic Abuse act receives Royal Assent. If someone can kill their partner and simply claim depression, it sets a very worrying precedent.
“Anxiety and depression are not excuses to kill. What sort of a message does this send out?”
Williams did not give evidence at his trial but told detectives he had “snapped” while in bed and that he began strangling his wife after she told him to “get over it” when he expressed his concerns.
During the original sentencing at Swansea Crown Court, Judge Paul Thomas said it was a “tragic case on several levels” and that Williams’s mental state was “severely affected at the time”.
The judge said Williams was suffering from severe depression, anxiety, a lack of sleep, and had been “obsessing” over Covid-19.
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