23-year old Emma-Jayne Magson killed her partner James Knight in March 2016. She has never denied that she inflicted the fatal stab wound which caused his death. She had loved James despite his demeaning and violent behaviour towards her. Emma was convicted of his murder in November 2016 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The issues at trial were self-defence, lack of intent and loss of control. No psychiatric evidence was advanced on her behalf. Emma did not give evidence.
It was Emma’s mother who contacted Justice for Women on Emma’s behalf. After Emma’s original appeal against conviction was refused by the Court of Appeal, we began campaigning on her behalf and crucially, re-examined the legal issues with a view to presenting some fresh evidence to the Court of Appeal with a view to challenging the original verdict.
Emma met James Knight not long after the end of her relationship with a previous abusive partner. She had in her childhood witnessed domestic abuse and her adolescent and adult relationships with men were characterised, in the main, by her deferential and accommodating role. This background was not explored at her original trial.
We have presented to the Court of Appeal fresh evidence which in November last year was sufficient to persuade the Court that Emma could renew her appeal against conviction.
On 19 November 2019 the Court of Appeal will hear evidence in support of Emma’s renewed appeal. We have sought fresh evidence from the psychiatrists who met with Emma before her trial; their evidence was not presented to the jury. Both these experts agree that Emma was suffering from an Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and that the partial defence of Diminished Responsibility should have been available to her at trial as she suffers from a personality disorder.
The personality disorder stems from Emma’s childhood experiences of domestic abuse in the family home, of neglect, of maternal illness, bullying and the death of her sister.
In addition we have explored the possibility that Emma is on the autistic spectrum. We instructed a Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist to assess Emma and she is of the opinion that Emma suffers from a Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). This is a residual diagnostic category on the autistic spectrum.
The PDD-NOS was not known about when Emma was tried. Had it been known then it is possible that Emma would have had the support of an Intermediary at trial to enable her to participate effectively. As it was, she was, arguably, at a disadvantage in understanding the events unfolding at trial.
As Emma did not give evidence at her trial. She did not talk about her experience of domestic abuse, both as a child witness and an adult victim. If her appeal is successful then her voice may be heard.
Please join us outside the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London on 19th November at 9.30am as show our support for Emma
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