Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said juries should be allowed to consider the fact a victim had been unfaithful as a possible provocation – in defiance of a new law that banned it as an excuse.
How did we end up with a law that said that such infidelity could not be used as a (partial) defence? Which part of Labour thought that up?
They dismissed two but upheld the appeal by Jon-Jacques Clinton, who was jailed for life, with a minimum of 26 years, after killing his wife, Dawn, at their home in Bracknell, Berkshire.
The couple, who had two children – now aged 13 and 12 – had separated two weeks before the 2010 killing.
The day before her death Mrs Clinton, a dinner lady, told her husband she was having an affair with Tony Montgomery, who she had met online.
Clinton later discovered had regularly posted lurid comments about sex on the internet, including one on the day of their daughter’s birthday.
When he confronted her about the infidelity, Mrs Clinton taunted him saying “it should have been like that every day of the week” and that she had slept with five men and gave graphic details.
She also “sniggered” after discovering he had been looking at suicide websites, adding “it would have been easier if you had, for all of us”.
Clinton, a building site manager, was also under pressure at work and was worried how to cope with two children without her after a 17-year relationship.
He attacked her with a lump of wood and strangled her.
The point about murder is that you have to plan to kill someone. And when trying to work out whether someone was planning to do so it is necessary to look at all of the events that led up to the event.
Note that no one at all is suggesting that we have a Latin style creme passionelle*, where having been cuckolded there is a right to hunt down and kill the participants in the two backed beast. Only that there is a difference between planning to kill someone and killing someone after provocation.
Also note that the man is not now to be set free, this is not a \”not guilty\” verdict**. It\’s been sent back for retrial. A jury will now decide whether that provocation is indeed a defence to a charge of murder. They being the right people and the right place to make such a decision.
Finally, note what\’s really interesting about the case. This isn\’t, as I\’m sure some will see it, the judges over ruling the lawmakers. This is the judges saying that the law is a lot more complicated than the lawmakers seem to realise. There are conflicts and trade offs throughout the system. The various needs to nail the guilty, spare the innocent, provide for fair trials to distinguish between the two and so on. And that complex web isn\’t quite as amenable to the will of Parliament as some lawmakers seem to think. The general rules about, as in this case, fair trials, the defences that can be mounted, count more than a specific line item in a piece of legislation.
It is much more important that it is possible to mount a defence for a jury to decide upon than it is that a majority of 635 people have voted to not allow a specific line of defence.
This is, writ small, one of the larger problems of our time. Vide Vodafone: Parliament\’s direct will in the matter may well be that the CFC rules hold. But having gifted jurisdiction to the EU courts on such matters that doesn\’t really matter any more. Abolishing the Lord Chancellor and then having to reinstate him in a different guise as so much of the basic law demands that we have someone named as the Lord Chancellor. Doesn\’t have to be Speaker of the Lords, but there does have to be a Lord Chancellor.
In short, the world is more complex than the pygmies who rule us understand it is.
* As Corporal Nobby Nobbs puts it.
** Well, I suppose you could view it that way. Not guilty as tried and convicted so far as the original judge ruled out that provocation by sexual infidelity defence. But you know what I mean.