Murder wife's pardon plea is rejected: Home Secretary's ruling on Thornton case condemned by women's groups

WOMEN'S groups yesterday condemned as 'cowardly' the Home Secretary's refusal to send the case of Sara Thornton, jailed for life for murdering her violent and alcoholic husband, back to the Court of Appeal.

Thornton's pleas for a free pardon or remission of her sentence were also rejected by Michael Howard, who said pardons were only for the innocent and remissions granted only in 'most exceptional' circumstances.

Thornton, now 37, had sought the help of friends, her GP and solicitor, the police, Alcoholics Anonymous and a psychiatrist specialising in alcohol abuse before she killed her husband, Malcolm, a former policeman, on 14 June 1989. She stabbed him in the stomach with a kitchen knife as he lay on a sofa after a drinking bout and a row. She was jailed for life in February 1990. Seventeen months later, her appeal - on the grounds that her husband's violent behaviour had provoked the killing - failed.

The case raised public awareness of domestic violence and the shortages of refuges and care for its victims, and questioned whether the legal defences, particularly the law on provocation, was better suited to a man's immediate rage than a woman's slow build-up to breaking point.

There followed the successful appeals of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, Janet Gardner and Amelia Rossiter. And in the crown courts, Pamela Sainsbury, who strangled her violent husband, and June Scotland, who battered hers to death, were both given probation.

Yesterday, Sandra Horley, of Chiswick women's refuge, said: 'It seems that justice for battered women is going to remain a lottery. This decision highlights the need to establish a new defence for battered women.'

She also echoed the calls from senior judiciary, including Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, to abolish the mandatory life sentence for murder, so that the courts could reflect some sympathy for battered women.

Julie Bindle, of Justice for Women, which led the campaign for Thornton's freedom, said: 'It is outrageous that the Home Secretary has taken this cowardly decision.

'It is obvious that he has no understanding of the issues of violence against women and further proves that our homicide defences do not fit women's experiences.'

Thornton's call for a fresh appeal was based on new psychiatric evidence that her state of mind had been affected by the violence she had suffered and that she had been provoked.

Mr Howard said he had given her case 'comprehensive consideration', but added: 'I have, however, concluded that, on presently available information, I would not be justified in referring the case to the Court of Appeal, or in recommending the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, either to grant a Free Pardon or to remit the remainder of her sentence.'

Last night, Thornton, who is in Bullwood Hall prison, Essex, promised to continue her campaign. She said: 'This is obviously a political decision and has nothing whatsoever to do with justice.'

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments