Cwmbran lockdown killer got 'unduly lenient' jail term, say MPs

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Ruth Williams was killed by her husband of almost 50 years at their home

A group of MPs are calling for the case of a man who killed his wife in lockdown to be reviewed because of its "unduly lenient" five year sentence.

Labour's Harriet Harman, Jess Phillips and Alex Davies-Jones have all written to the attorney general to look at Anthony Williams' case.

Williams, 70, was jailed for the manslaughter of his wife Ruth, 67, at their home in Cwmbran, Torfaen.

He admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility, saying "I flipped out".

However, he was found not guilty of murder after a trial at Swansea Crown Court.

All three are asking the attorney general Suella Braverman for the case to be passed to England and Wales' most senior court, the Court of Appeal, and expressed concern about the use of Williams' depression in his defence against the more serious charge of murder.

Ms Harman, a former solicitor general and minister for justice, tweeted she would ask the attorney general to refer it to the Court of Appeal as an "unduly lenient sentence".

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Harriet Harman was the first MP to call for the sentenced to be reviewed

The former solicitor said she hoped it would lead to an increase in Williams' sentence and criticised what she said was a "loophole" in the law which allowed Williams' defence barrister to argue his depression was a defence against being convicted of murder.

"If he went out in the street and killed a neighbour, there would be no question of him facing a murder charge," she said.

"You get a discount for it being your wife and you get a discount for it being in her own home where she should feel safe."

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Jess Phillips said is a concern that Williams will only serve half his sentence

Meanwhile, Jess Phillips tweeted her support for Ms Harman, expressing concern that Williams may only serve half his sentence.

The MP for Birmingham Yardley said: "We're looking at somebody serving around 18 months in prison when there is a woman who is dead.

"The areas in which I think this case needs to be examined are the difference between how men and women pleading such a defence of diminished responsibility are managed, and the way that plays out, specifically in cases of alleged domestic murder.

"I want some assurances as somebody who is always seeking to improve criminal justice outcomes for victims of domestic violence, about how this case was managed both by the courts, but also by the Crown Prosecution Service."

Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones, also wrote on Friday to the attorney general, urging her to intervene and refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

In the letter she posted on Twitter, she said she was "horrified" that Williams was "given such a lenient sentence at a time where so many are struggling with the mental strain of the pandemic".

She wrote that the UK government's Domestic Abuse Bill was a "landmark piece of legislation," but added: "Sadly, there are cases such as Mr Williams' whereby the law is failing victims."

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She added that she was worried the sentence could "act as a catalyst" and that "we're going to see even more extremes happening, with perpetrators thinking they have an excuse or a cover".

Ms Davies-Jones also said she was concerned that Ms Braverman is due to go on maternity leave this month, with the UK government yet to announce a replacement for her.

Image source, Gwent Police
Image caption,
Williams' daughter had told the court he was "spiralling out of control" with worry during the lockdown

During his Swansea Crown Court trial, the jury heard how Williams strangled his wife of 46 years after an argument on 28 March, days after the start of the first lockdown began.

Williams had not slept for several days after the start of restrictions in March because he was worrying over money, coronavirus and his health.

A psychiatrist told the court the defendant's mental health had dramatically deteriorated after retiring in 2019, and the coronavirus pandemic had made things worse.

No evidence was heard during the trial that Williams had a history of domestic abuse.

'Overwhelming tragedy'

Mrs Williams was found slumped in the porch of their home with keys in her hand - she was later pronounced dead at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

While being driven to the police station, Williams told officers: "It wasn't murder and I didn't mean to murder her.

"I just flipped, it wasn't me. I wouldn't hurt a fly, it wasn't me, I'm not like that and I don't know what came over me."

As he sentenced Williams, Judge Paul Thomas said: "The overwhelming greatest tragedy is that a lady of 67 years who was in good health had her life ended at the hands of a man she had loved for nearly 50 years."