12:03, November 14 78 0 theguardian.com

2018-11-14 12:03:17
Woman was looking for her shoes during car park murder, court told

A woman sentenced to life imprisonment for murder following a fight outside a Bradford pub was looking for her shoes in the car park when the fatal attack occurred, the court of appeal has been told.

In the first case referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) under new judicial guidance for joint enterprise cases, lawyers for Laura Mitchell have argued that her conviction is unsafe.

Mitchell, then 22, was outside the bar in January 2007 with her boyfriend Michael Hall, also 22, when a fight broke over who had booked a taxi.

During the initial scuffle, Hall was seen to have pulled the victim, Andrew Ayres, 50, off Mitchell.

She was later seen wandering around the car park and subsequently said she was trying to find her shoes, which had been lost.

In 2016, the supreme court ruled that a key test imposed by judges in assessing guilt in joint enterprise cases – where the accused acts in conjunction with the killer but does not strike the blow that causes death – had been incorrectly applied for 30 years.

Courts had misinterpreted the foresight rule, the supreme court said. Foresight of what someone else might do is merely part of the evidence. “It is for the jury to decide on the whole evidence,” the judgment said, “whether [a secondary party] had the necessary intent.”

The court of appeal has heard a series of applications since then from those imprisoned under the discredited joint enterprise guidelines. Only two have so far resulted in sentences being reduced or convictions overturned.

The grassroots organisation, Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association (Jengba) has led the campaign to overturn convictions, securing the support of the Commons’ justice select committee, the playwright Jimmy McGovern and senior lawyers such as Lord Hooper, a retired appeal court justice.

Mitchell’s case has been supported by campaigners. She lost an earlier appeal against conviction in 2008. Her case is now the first referred by the CCRC, under its statutory powers, to the criminal court of appeal under changes made by the supreme court’s 2016 ruling.

Tim Moloney QC, for Mitchell, told the court: “There’s a sufficiently strong case that a jury properly directed would not have convicted the appellant. The substantial injustice she has suffered is compounded by the life sentence.”

Although Mitchell was involved in punching and kicking in the initial phase of the fight, the court heard, she did not go to a nearby house where others collected weapons including a CS gas spray and a metal flail.

“There was no evidence that she was part of the plan to get weapons,” Moloney said. “She was encouraged to move away but she insisted on staying on to recover her shoes.

“She was heard saying: ‘I want my shoes.’ It was clear from a number of prosecution witnesses that she had lost her shoes and wanted to find them.”

Mitchell appeared by remote video link from prison. She spoke at the beginning of proceedings only to confirm her name. The hearing continues.

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