LAW115 – Assessment two
Francis Castle (40) has been found guilty of the murder of Maria Castle (32) at Lyme Crown Court on 31st January 2019.
The facts in the case were as follows:
On the evening of 31st October 2017, Francis left the home at 6pm to go to a work’s Halloween night out in Lyme town centre. His wife, Maria, stayed at home telling Francis that she had some work to do for university as she had an upcoming coursework deadline that week. The Castles also had two children, Francis Jr. (4) and Lisa (2) who Maria was supervising while Francis went out.
During the evening, Francis consumed alcohol. At trial, it was suggested that this was between 8 and 10 pints of lager of varying strength. Francis admitted feeling quite drunk but believed he was not so drunk as to be unable to recall what occurred on the evening in question.
At around 2am, Francis hailed a taxi and returned home where the lights were off. He entered the property using his own key. According to Francis’ testimony, he thought he heard some sounds upstairs but when he called his wife’s name, there was no reply. Suspecting that there may be an intruder in the house, he grabbed a kitchen knife and sneaked upstairs. He checked his children who were sleeping and then entered the bedroom to find his wife in bed with another man, Finn Cooley. Francis and Finn knew each other – they both went to the same primary and secondary schools and Finn works as mechanic in Lyme where Francis often takes his car to be repaired.
On discovering the two in bed, Francis yelled at Finn telling him to get out before he ‘gutted him like a pig’. At this point, Maria screamed at Francis to leave Finn alone. She told him that Finn was twice the man that he was and she only went with him because she didn’t love Francis and only Finn could satisfy her. She then told Francis that Finn was the real father of his daughter Lisa and that Francis was ‘stupid to think otherwise’. At this moment, Francis snapped and lunged at Maria with the knife. At this stage, Finn ran from the room and phoned the police from his mobile phone.
The police arrived on the scene 30 minutes later and discovered Francis sitting in the children’s bedroom hugging his children and sobbing. Francis was covered in blood and the bloody knife was on the dressing table. On entering the master bedroom, they discovered the body of Maria Castle where she had been stabbed 18 times.
At trial, Francis pleaded not guilty to murder and sought to raise the partial defences of loss of control and diminished responsibility. Counsel for the defendant established that Francis has been suffering from depression as a result of the death of his mother two months earlier and was taking medication for this. He had not taken his medication on the evening of the 31st October as he did not wish to mix this with alcohol. It was argued that as a result of a traumatic childhood, Francis has a history of alcoholism and had recently returned to drink after his mother’s passing. As a child, his father walked out on his mother after having an affair and it was argued by the defence counsel that this had effected Francis, causing him to have trust issues and was cited as a one of the reasons for the nature of his reaction to Maria’s taunts.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Dredd, refused to allow the defence of loss of control to be put to the jury on the grounds that the taunting constituted infidelity which was not available as a qualifying trigger under s.55(6)(c) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. He also refused to allow diminished responsibility to be used as a defence on the basis that (a) his alcoholism did not result in an abnormality of mental functioning and (b) his depression did not have a causal link to his actions.
Francis’s previous convictions include a common assault committed when he was 17 years old (suspended sentence), another common assault when he was 20 (6 month’s imprisonment), two commercial burglaries (one aged 22 with a suspended sentence and the second aged 24 with two year’s imprisonment). He was also convicted of s.47 ABH when aged 27 and served 3 years). It was argued at sentencing that this was due to his drinking problems and that he had turned a new leaf and had changed his ways.
On conviction, he was sentenced by Mr Justice Dredd for minimum tariff of 40 years under schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
In his sentencing remarks, Dredd J stated the following:
‘Mr Castle, you murdered your wife in cold blood. You took a knife to the scene of the crime and you used that weapon to kill your wife. Therefore the starting point is 25 years custody. Your attack on your wife was pre-meditated and you caused her suffering as you stabbed her 18 times. Your wife was vulnerable due to your aggressive nature and the fear you invoked in her. Your response to her words were irrational and I do not agree that you wer…
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