Judge Griffith-Jones and the ‘respectable’ killers

Judge Richard Griffith-Jones

Judge who sentenced TV exec Jonathan Wicks is again in the spotlight

BY Nigel Horne LAST UPDATED AT 17:52 ON Wed 4 Aug 2010

Eyebrows have been raised by the comments of the judge who sentenced TV executive Jonathan Wicks to just 18 months' imprisonment for killing his wife after she burnt the roast beef at his birthday lunch.

Judge Richard Griffith-Jones yesterday cited Wicks's "respectable and successful life" and referred to the argument during which he struck his wife with a single fatal blow as a "tiff".

Research by The First Post reveals this is not the first time Judge Griffith-Jones has cited "respectability" when sentencing. Nor is it the first time a seemingly lenient sentence has brought him media attention.

Wicks was found guilty of manslaughter, an offence which can bring a sentence of anything up to life imprisonment. Because Sarah Wicks died as the result of a single blow, her husband was sentenced in line with the guidelines for "single punch cases", where precedent suggests 18 months is not unusual.
 
But Judge Richard Griffith-Jones also told the 48-year-old TV location manager, who has worked on Casualty and other shows: "You're a man of hitherto good character who has led a respectable and successful life." He added: "It's not a case of the sort of yobbish violence in public which is so often a feature of one-blow manslaughter cases."

In April 2009, when Judge Griffith-Jones jailed 32-year-old HR manager Karla Biddle for stabbing to death her love rival Emma Bradshaw, he told her: "You were a respectable, intelligent and successful young woman..."
 
After attacking Bradshaw with a kitchen knife at her home, Biddle had driven to work and kept up a pretence of normality for the rest of the day.

The jury cleared her of murder, but found her guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines suggest that if the degree of provocation is held to be low, the sentence for manslaughter should be between 10 years and life.

Griffith-Jones chose to sentence her to seven years' jail. At one stage, he is reported to have said: "She was a respectable woman with no violence in her background... I am sure she regrets what happened."
 
In February 2009, Judge Griffith-Jones spared company director Lynne-Marie Howden from jail after she caused a fatal car accident at the end of 30 minutes of consecutive calls using her hands-free mobile phone on the A429 in Warwickshire.
 
Howden had been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving, but found guilty of the lesser offence of death by careless driving, which carries a maximum sentence of five years' in prison. Griffith-Jones spared her jail and instead banned her from driving for two years and fined her £2,000.
 
He told her: "I am not going to lecture about the consequences, which will be perfectly obvious to you and will stay with you for the rest of your life. What happened to you in this case is a lesson to us all about the dangers of talking on the phone while we drive."
 
Ian Frostick, whose 43-year-old radiographer wife Patricia was killed after Howden crashed head-on into her car in November 2007, reacted angrily to the sentence. He said: "All I wanted from this case was to see justice done for my wife, myself and my family and an explanation for her death. The defendant did not set out to kill my wife, but that is what her actions did." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.