Woodward Case: Louise's sister is `happy enough', but fight goes on

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Judge Zobel's decision to reduce Louise Woodward's sentence was greeted with a palpable sense of relief on both sides of the Atlantic yesterday. Esther Leach in Elton and Kim Sengupta listened to the reaction.

They wanted her acquitted and on the next flight home. But the supporters of the Justice for Louise Woodward Campaign welcomed the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Her sister Vicky, sitting at her boyfriend's house in Elton, Cheshere, was said to be "happy enough". The few villagers who managed to squeeze past the media into the Rigger pub, said they had not been expecting any other decision.

Jean Jones, a key campaigner and friend of the family, addressed the throng. "Naturally we would prefer to know that Louise is coming home. However, we take some comfort from Judge Hiller Zobel's decision to reduce the charge. We firmly believed as we always have in Louise's total innocence."

Steve Collins, whose son Steven is the boyfriend of Vicky Woodward, said the campaign will not be over until Louise is exonerated. "The campaign has not yet taken its toll on us. We have had to remain strong for Vicky's sake and also for Sue and Gary, her parents, who depend on us to take care of her."

Those who may have felt a certain sense of responsibility , directly or indirectly, for what had happened to her, were also pleased.

Stephen Colwell, one of the jurors at the Massachussets court which had convicted her said: "I am greatly relieved at this decision. I was distraught afterwards and wondered perhaps whether a new trial would have to be ordered but to have a reduction is a great relief to me personally and to other jurors. We were boxed into a corner with three lousy choices."

Philip Johnson, the president of the EF Au Pair Agency which had taken Louise to Boston, said: "We see Judge Zobel's decision to reduce the charge against Louise to involuntary manslaughter as the first step in the process leading to her being cleared.

"As we have said before, we firmly believe Louise is innocent. She will have our full support and confidence throughout any further legal proceedings," he said.

Bradley Clarkson, an American writer on the law, admitted: " There is a sense of relief that Judge Zobel has taken this course. For the time being it can be seen as a form of damage limitation. However, this case has raised important questions about the whole issue of justice in the USA."