A man who strangled his wife to death five days into the first UK lockdown will not have his sentence increased, the court of appeal has ruled.
Anthony Williams, 70, strangled his wife, Ruth, 67, at their home in Brynglas, south Wales, after a period of feeling depressed and anxious and later told police he had been struggling mentally with coronavirus restrictions, his trial heard.
He was cleared of her murder in February and jailed for five years after admitting manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
Williams told police he “literally choked the living daylights” out of his wife on the morning of 28 March last year. He told them he “snapped” after a period of depression and anxiety and began strangling his wife in their bed after she told him to “get over it”.
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. His sentence was referred to the court of appeal by the attorney general’s office (AGO) as being “unduly lenient”.
Tom Little QC, for the AGO, argued the sentencing judge failed to properly take aggravating features of the killing.
“As a ‘domestic homicide’ between a husband and wife, sentencing guidelines for domestic abuse should have been considered,”그는 말했다.
The judges noted that both the prosecution and defence submitted Williams had a low level of responsibility at the time of the manslaughter, but Little said the trial prosecution was wrong to say Williams had a lower level of retained responsibility at the time of the killing.
“This was an anxiety and depressive condition; not any form of delusional psychotic disorder,” he argued. Greater weight should also have been given to Williams’s suffering at the hands of her husband, he added.
“For her to die in circumstances where she was being strangled by someone who she had loved and had been in a mutually loving relationship for many years, to put it very inelegantly, is an awful way to die,”그는 말했다. “She suffered as she died … that suffering was not properly reflected in that approach to sentence.”
Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mrs Justice Farbey and judge Paul Sloan QC, described the killing as a “very atypical” case of homicide, and dismissed the AGO’s application.
It was a distinctive case of a “single incident out of the blue”, said Bean.
The couple’s daughter, Emma Williams, previously said her parents spent 90% of their time together, were not argumentative people, and she had never heard either of them even raise their voice to each other. Her father had exhibited strange behaviour, becoming obsessed with turning off lights and heating to save money, and fears of losing the couple’s home.
Noting her evidence, Bean 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 couple appeared to have had a long and loving marriage, and Williams had admitted killing his wife and shown remorse, the judges said.
After the ruling, the Labour MP Harriet Harman said she was surprised by the decision, telling the PA news agency that the fact the judges found that Williams’s actions were wholly explained by his illness shows the courts were “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," 그녀가 말했다. “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.”