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Frances Inglis Appeals Against Life Sentence

February 6, 2010

The mother jailed for life last month after being found guilty of murdering her brain-damaged son has lodged an appeal in the high court against her conviction and sentence. Frances Inglis wrote to selected newspapers including the Guardian today to announce her appeal after being given a life sentence with a minimum term of nine years for killing her 22-year-old son, Tom, with a lethal dose of heroin.

Tom had been severely disabled after falling out of a moving ambulance in 2007 and his mother believed he would remain severely disabled and never recover.

“I want to make it clear that I am in no way opposed in principle to medical treatment and that if Tom could ever have recovered enough to enjoy any quality of life, I would have nursed him 24 hours a day for as long as necessary. But when there was no chance of any quality of life, I saw it as cruel and barbaric to allow – even force – him to suffer such agony,” claimed the 57-year-old in the letter, written from Bronzefield jail in Ashford, Middlesex.

Today her solicitor, Katie Wheatley, explained the grounds for the appeal. She believes the judge was wrong not to direct the jury to consider a defence known in law as “slow burn provocation”. This applies to people who are driven to act when under extreme pressure, and is most commonly used in domestic violence cases where the victim retaliates after years of abuse. In this case, it will be argued that Inglis was driven to kill Tom after witnessing his suffering and learning that the only legal way to end his life would be to apply to the high court for an order to withhold nutrition and hydration.

Had the jury been allowed to consider that defence, they could have returned a verdict of manslaughter, which offers greater sentencing discretion, said Wheatley.

Inglis is also appealing against the sentence given to her by Judge Brian Barker QC, the common serjeant of London.

“The minimum term of nine years was far too long and failed to fully reflect the mitigating features of this case,” said Wheatley. Though murder carries a mandatory life sentence, the minimum term imposed by a judge can be as short as he or she wishes.

In her letter today Inglis wrote: “I still live with the pain of the loss of my wonderful son and the awful knowledge of what he suffered, but I am comforted that he is no longer suffering and is at peace. What I did in releasing Tom was the most harrowing, the most heartbreaking and difficult thing I have ever had to do … I begged God for a miracle of recovery or Tom’s peaceful death.”

As the article says, the defence of slow burn provocation is most commonly used for domestic violence cases. It was first created for such a case. Provocation is accepted as a defence for murder when the victim has done something to make the killer lose self-control- such as domestic violence.

I really can’t see what Thomas Inglis could have done to provoke his mother’s actions, considering that he, according to reports, spent the time since his accident unable to move, and therefore physically unable to do anything to make her lose self control. In my opinion, the judge was right not to suggest this defence to the jury. I can’t understand why her lawyer is allowing this defence to be used in the appeal.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Claire permalink
    February 8, 2010 9:46 pm

    Oh dear. It’s easy to judge, isn’t it? Harder to put yourself into this woman’s shoes. The provocation was having her son being permanently and devastatingly brain-damaged by an authority that should have been caring for him, that was never brought to justice. She believed she was ending his intolerable and undeserved suffering. This was an act of pure and awsome love, and it ill-behoves anyone to condemn her for it.

    I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you to wonder how he came to fall out of a moving ambulance in the first place, and whether anyone was brought to justice for causing his devastating injuries? That would be enough to break any mother’s heart, and cause devastating emotional damage. How about a little mercy?

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