A woman jailed for at least 18 years after being found guilty of murdering her husband is to appeal against her conviction on the grounds that video and audio evidence released into the public domain midway through her trial impeded her right to a fair hearing.
Penelope Jackson, 66, was found guilty of murder in October at Bristol crown court after a jury of eight women and four men delivered a 10-2 majority verdict.
The case attracted widespread publicity after a clip in which the retired accountant admitted stabbing David Jackson, 78, was circulated on news websites and social media platforms.
Police bodycam footage showing the moment of Jackson’s arrest outside her home in Somerset was released after requests from the media and the permission of the trial judge. Jackson is captured on camera confessing: “I admit it all.” She appears calm as she tells officers: “He is on the kitchen floor” and repeatedly asks for her coat. She goes on to say: “I stabbed him. He’s an aggressive bully and nasty and I’ve had enough.”
In addition, audio evidence was circulated of a 999 call Jackson made in which she admitted to an operator that she had stabbed her husband three times. Later in a statement she said she had been in a state of traumatised shock.
Martin Winter, Jackson’s solicitor, said: “The release of the media and the interest it stirred up created an unfairness because it coincided with the beginning of her giving evidence.”
Jackson admitted killing her husband but denied murder, claiming instead she suffered a “loss of control” after decades of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the former army lieutenant colonel. The court heard how he had held a knife to his wife’s throat during a family barbecue and, on another occasion, threatened her with a poker after a row over a TV remote control.
Winter said while the jury had seen the evidence of the confession prior to its dissemination, it had been viewed by jurors in the controlled arena of the trial.
“The fear is that once the images go outside of the courtroom, the ability of the judge to advise a jury about that evidence is lost,” he explained.
“Inevitably, it went further than the responsible news outlets and attracted a lot of commentary on social media. It was subject to mocking and mimicry and became the subject of memes and dark humour.”
Clare Wade QC had sought to persuade the jury that Jackson had a loss of control – a partial defence to murder – after being pushed to the edge by her husband’s abuse. But sentencing Jackson to life with an 18-year minimum term, Judge Martin Picton told her: “I have no doubt you intended to kill your husband and it was premeditated murder. Your behaviour shows a shocking level of callousness.”
Jane Monckton Smith, a criminologist specialising in domestic homicide, said: “I think the footage was very detrimental to her and I think it was misinterpreted.”
She added: “The type of person that commits a domestic homicide is usually very manipulative and controlling, whether they are male or female – unless they are responding to abuse against themselves and then they fall into a different category.
“In the footage, Penelope Jackson was not trying to manipulate what people thought. She was just in shock and telling the truth. There was no subterfuge but rather an honesty which, in my personal opinion, supports her story that she was abused.”
Smith, a former police officer and professor of public protection at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “To somebody who doesn’t know about intimate partner homicides, that footage could come across as if she was heartless and cold. But when you understand how coercive control works and its impact on victims you can see she is in shock and not attempting to manipulate people’s ideas of what happened.”
Jackson’s legal team had resisted the application to release the footage.
Winter said: “We urged the court to delay the release of the material precisely because it can take on a life of its own. It was something around which people who didn’t want to bother themselves with the detail could watch and come to a conclusion about before widely publishing their opinions.
“It becomes the subject of speculation and uninformed comment and the fear is the jury can be swayed by the commentary when it is that widespread.”
The Crown Prosecution Service said it would not comment on a case once an appeal has been lodged. The Judicial Office does not comment on individual cases.