Emma-Jayne Magson: Steak knife murder conviction 'unsafe'

Emma-Jayne Magson Image copyright Emma Jayne-Magson
Image caption Emma-Jayne Magson, 26, was convicted of murder in 2016

The murder conviction of a woman who stabbed her partner to death with a steak knife is unsafe, a court has heard.

Emma-Jayne Magson got a life sentence with a minimum term of 17 years for killing James Knight, in 2016.

London's Court of Appeal heard the conviction was unsafe because evidence about her mental health was not put before the trial jury.

Magson, from Leicester, is appealing to have her conviction quashed.

Lawyers for the 26-year-old told three senior judges the defendant suffered from emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).

Image copyright Leicestershire Police
Image caption James Knight was fatally stabbed with a steak knife

This, Clare Wade QC said, "lay in the appellant having endured a childhood which was characterised by exposure to domestic violence", as well as "parental neglect" and being bullied at school.

The court was also told Magson had stabbed Mr Knight - with whom she had a "volatile" relationship - after he had been kicking at her front door "in circumstances where the deceased had been violent to her earlier in the evening".

Her condition "substantially impaired her ability to exercise self-control and that the EUPD provides an explanation for her conduct", Ms Wade added.

She said experts now agreed "the defence of diminished responsibility... would have been available to her".

Ms Wade also argued Magson was unable to participate fully in her trial, saying her "impoverished verbal reasoning skills, EUPD and social communication difficulties" had "compromised" her ability to properly instruct her lawyers.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Magson decided not to give evidence at her trial

William Hughes QC is opposing Magson's appeal on behalf of the prosecution.

In written submissions, Mr Hughes said: "This is a case where the fresh evidence sought to be relied upon could have been obtained before or at the time of trial, rather than post-conviction."

He added Magson "did effectively participate in her trial", and was able to "make important decisions affecting the trial process".

Image caption A number of supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice prior to Magson's hearing

The court also heard from forensic psychiatrist Dr Gareth Garrett who assessed Magson in 2016 and 2018 and did not consider her to have EUPD, but has since revised his opinion and now believes she does.

He commented on how she sounded "calm-ish" in a 999 call made after the stabbing but was "hysterical" in footage from a police body-worn camera.

"The whole nature of the disorder is that things can go up and down," he said.

He said Magson told him Mr Knight had been abusive to her, including kicking her in the abdomen after she had a miscarriage.

He also assaulted her inside the house immediately before she stabbed him, Dr Garrett said.

A second forensic psychiatrist, Dr Steffan Davies, said Magson had a pervasive developmental disorder, low IQ and poor verbal abilities.

This would have affected her ability to participate in the trial, he said.

For example, her original legal team told her to "keep her head down" and she took this literally, he added.

Image caption Sally Challen (in the blue coat) and her son David have backed Magson

Magson has been backed by campaign group Justice for Women, which supported Sally Challen.

Her murder conviction for killing her emotionally abusive husband with a hammer was quashed in February and prosecutors later accepted her plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Mrs Challen and her son David were among the supporters outside court.

He said: "I'm here to support Emma because like my mother, she's a victim of abuse and we need to recognise the true events that led to the death of James."

Lord Justice Fulford, Mr Justice William Davis and Mr Justice Johnson reserved their judgment to a later date.

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