Stacey Hyde definitely killed a man. The man’s name was Vincent Francis, and nobody tries to claim she did not kill him. Not even Ms Hyde herself. The problem is, she was sentenced to life. In the circumstances, this is clearly wrong for a number of reasons and not even consistent with the way such trials are usually carried out.
Firstly, Ms Hyde admits to the killing and shows remorse – something which usually lightens sentences. Secondly, she was acting under stressful circumstances, acting out of fear and in the defence of herself and a friend. For this reason she pleaded not guilty, and the circumstances should at least have served as a mitigating factor. Instead, the fact was essentially ignored. Many have claimed that Ms Hyde’s trial demonstrates some of the problems that women can face under the predominantly male English legal system.
The killing took place in 2009, in the early days of September. Hyde was 17 at the time, and she went out to enjoy some drinks with Holly Banwell, the girlfriend of the deceased. At the end of their evening out together, they went back to the flat where Francis and Banwell were living together. Ms Hyde passed out on the bed from her night of drinking.
In the early hours, Hyde claims to have woken up to the sound of Ms Banwell screaming for help. She ran to her friend’s aid and was attacked by Francis. The struggle, which was witnessed by a neighbour and described by Banwell to a 999 operator as it happened, ended with Hyde grabbing a knife and frenziedly stabbing out at Francis. This was a disproportionate reaction – as her defence counsel openly admitted – but was driven by fear and done in defence not only of herself but of Ms Banwell.
Psychiatrists who examined Ms Hyde after the incident identified certain mental health issues, which should have served as further mitigating factors. These, too, were seemingly ignored.
Campaign Group Justice for Women has voiced its support for Ms Hyde. They have pointed out that apart from the witnesses to the circumstances surrounding Francis’ killing, there was also plenty of reason to believe she could realistically have been acting in self-defence. There were 27 recorded incidents of domestic violence committed by Francis against Ms Banwell – all of which were acknowledged by the prosecution. He also had a record of violence against a previous partner.
The handing of a life sentence to Hyde is surely a mistake, and one that will hopefully be corrected thanks to the efforts of campaign groups like Justice for Women.