In the early hours of 4th September 2009, Stacey Hyde remembers waking up to hear her friend Holly screaming for help. In the frightening events that followed, which Stacey does not clearly remember, Stacey stabbed and killed her friend Holly’s partner Vince Francis.
When the police arrived Stacey was very distressed, sobbing and saying “he tried to kill me…I had to help Holly…he was going to kill her…I thought he would kill me…”. She was found to have injuries, some of which were consistent with previous self-harm, and some of which were consistent with a forceful struggle with Vince.
Stacey was only 17 at the time of the offence, Vince was twice her age, and it was acknowledged by the prosecution that there had been 27 separate incidents of domestic violence between him and Holly, and that he had also been violent towards his previous girlfriend. A 999 call made at the time of the incident records Holly screaming, “…my boyfriend is beating my friend… I need the police ASAP”. She is then heard saying “they are fighting”, and then she is heard screaming that “Stacey has a knife and has stabbed him”.
On the 8th March 2010, at the age of only 18, Stacey was convicted of murdering Vince Francis, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Stacey was tried under an old law that does not allow for the loss of control caused by a fear of serious violence. The law has since changed, (partly as a result of previous campaigns by Justice for Women). If Stacey’s case had been tried under the new law, she may not have been convicted of murder.
Stacey was a vulnerable adolescent, who had suffered from a history of mental health problems and sexual violence. Her only crime was to react disproportionately, out of fear, to a man’s violent attack on her and her friend.
After Stacey’s conviction, her family contacted Justice for Women, and a new legal team submitted Grounds of Appeal against her conviction. The grounds include fresh evidence from an adolescent psychiatrist that she had ADHD at the time of her offence, in addition to other psychiatric diagnoses resulting from an extremely difficult childhood. These conditions would have substantially impaired her responsibility for the offence.
As a result of her ADHD she was extremely vulnerable to peer pressure, and it has also come to light that other prisoners manipulated her to give evidence during her trial in a way that made her come across unsympathetically to the jury. Had her condition been recognised, she would have had assistance from an intermediary at trial that could have prevented this.
This case is not just about Stacey. The issues that have affected Stacey in her life are issues that affect many people today, especially young women, but the criminal justice system is failing to ensure that all are equal before the law. Thank you for helping us challenge Stacey’s conviction to make sure that the criminal justice system recognises the abuse that women and girls suffer, instead of punishing them for it.
On 21st May 2015, a jury at Winchester Crown court acquitted Stacey Hyde of murder following a retrial that was ordered by the court of appeal last November 2014.
Justice for Women took up her case and a new legal team obtained fresh evidence from adolescent psychiatrists that was presented to the Court of Appeal. Stacey’s murder conviction was quashed in November 2014. She had by then served five years in custody of a life sentence with a nine year tariff. The prosecution were not willing to accept a plea to manslaughter and insisted she should face a fresh trial for murder. Although Stacey believed she had killed in self defence, she had lost her memory of key events and fearful of another traumatic trial and re-conviction for murder she was willing to plead guilty to manslaughter.
Representations were made to the Director of Public Prosecutions that the evidential test was not met and it was not in the public interest to proceed with a re-trial. Despite evidence in support of self defence, Stacey was willing to plead guilty to manslaughter. These detailed representations were rejected although the DPP refused to provide reasons for her decision.
In preparation for the retrial, the new legal team considered the evidence properly presented would support self defence. In particular a 999 call made at the time of the killing revealed that Stacey was screaming in terror thoughout the incident and that her former friend Holly Banwell, despite her evidence to the contrary, was under attack by Francis at the time of the stabbing. Evidence emerged of a history of violence towards women by Francis, including a former girlfriend, who gave similar fact evidence.
Justice for Women have slammed the prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC for aggressively pursuing the prosecution in spite of the overwhelming evidence that undermined his case for murder. In particular, at the appeal the adolescent psychiatrist instructed by the Crown was unable to support the prosecution and instead gave evidence for the defence. Even the adult psychiatrist on whom the crown relied, found Stacey suffered from a number of mental disorders.
Quinlan vigorously opposed applications for bail following the successful appeal, to ensure that Stacey remained in custody for a further six months awaiting trial.
At the trial, he called witnesses whose evidence conflicted significantly with the 999 call. The prosecution sought to paint Stacey as a drunken flirt despite undisputed evidence that she was a victim of abuse and had been self medicating with alcohol to dull her pain.
Justice for Women have supported Stacey since 2011, throughout a series of appeals. We are delighted that justice has finally been done and that Stacey will now be able to receive the support she needs instead of being unjustly punished for her own vulnerability and fear.
Justice for Women have campaigned for 25 years to highlight the adverse treatment of women by the criminal justice system. We hope that this verdict will highlight the issues that abused and vulnerable women continue to face.
Stacey was represented at the retrial by Steve Kamlish QC and Clare Wade, Garden Court Chambers, instructed by Harriet Wistrich from Birnberg Peirce.
For media coverage of Stacey's case, please visit our press coverage page.
"I'm fighting for all those women out there who need the strength and support behind them and the belief that they can stand up for themselves and that people will stand up for them as well." Stacey speaking at the Centre for Women's Justice Southwest of England launch event in Bristol on 20th April 2017.