Woman to use ‘Tony Martin’ defence to appeal her murder conviction

Girlfriend who murdered her boyfriend with single stab wound to the heart should be covered by ‘Tony Martin defence’ and able to use ‘disproportionate force’ against lover she says had been strangling her, Appeal Court to hear

Emma-Jayne Magson stabbed boyfriend James Knight to death in March 2016She claimed Knight was trying to strangle her and she was defending herself She has been convicted of murder twice and is again appealing the decision Her legal team will use the Tony Martin defence in an effort to clear her name 

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Court of Appeal judges will today hear that domestic abuse victims should be allowed to use the ‘Tony Martin defence’ of using ‘disproportionate force’ if they feel their life is in danger. 

Lawyers for Emma-Jayne Magson, who was convicted of murdering her boyfriend James Knight claim she only used the steak knife as she was being strangled at the time. 

Magson was handed a life sentence after she was convicted of Knight’s murder for a second time. 

Emma-Jayne Magson, pictured, is appealing her conviction for murdering her boyfriend James Knight in March 2016

Magson’s legal team will claim she was entitled to use force to defend herself as James Knight, pictured, was trying to strangle her at the time

Her legal team is seeking to overturn her conviction claiming that in March 2016 the then 23-year-old was in fear for her life and stabbed her boyfriend in self defence. 

‘No rush’: Emma-Jayne Magson’s chilling 999 call 

Operator: Can you tell me exactly what’s happened?

Magson: Umm I don’t know, my boyfriend’s here, he’s making weird noises, I don’t know what’s going on.

Operator: What were you doing up until he’s starting what he’s doing now?

Magson: No, he’s been fine, he’s come home, he’s come home to me, I’ve been out all night and then he’s come home to me and then just collapsed on my floor… he was fine up until about five minutes and then he’s just started making noises and now they’ve stopped and now I’m on the phone to you.

Operator: Is he awake and breathing?

Magson: Yes, he’s breathing. He’s breathing fine, he’s started to sleep but I don’t know why he’s making them noises, I don’t know if he’s done it for my sake.

Operator: Do you want an ambulance to come and take him to hospital?

Magson: I don’t know if there’s something up or he’s just playing me about.

Operator: The only thing I can do is just send an ambulance to come and take him to hospital if that’s what he wants?

Magson: Yes do that please.

Operator: Are his eyes open at all? Is he awake? Is he conscious or… ?

Magson: Well, to be honest, it looks like he’s sleeping but it ain’t how he normally sleeps because I live with him, so it ain’t how he normally sleeps if that makes sense… it looks like he’s had a fight with someone… I think he’s ignoring me on purpose if I’m honest with you.

Operator: Alright, well we’ll get someone sent over to him, it’s been arranged. I mean, it might take a while… I do apologise, it’s Bank Holiday weekend and we’re getting absolutely…

Magson: No, that’s fine, don’t worry about it.

Operator: Try and put him on his side, all right? If he does wake up just reassure him. Do you know what, I wouldn’t let him have anything to eat or drink, not even water.

Magson: Do you know what? I just think he’s too smashed, that’s what I think. I just need to be on the safe side, like he’s my boyfriend. 

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Lawyers representing Magson will argue that victims of domestic violence should be allowed to use ‘disproportionate force’ to defend themselves from a violent partner, in a similar manner that a homeowner can defend themselves from a burglar using lethal force. 

The appeal will rely on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 which changed the law following the conviction of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin who was jailed for murdering a teenage burglar at his home. 

Martin served three years in prison for shooting dead Fred Barras, 16, at his home in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, in 1999. He was initially found guilty of murder but this was reduced to manslaughter on appeal.

Mr Martin was living alone at his farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, nicknamed Bleak House, when he caught Brendon Fearon, then 29, and Mr Barras, 16, inside. He fired his shotgun three times towards the intruders, killing Barras.

The case provoked a national debate about the measures homeowners can take to defend their property.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) is supporting Magson’s appeal which will seek to expand the ‘Tony Martin defence’ to victims of domestic violence. 

CWJ Director Harriet Wistrich told the Telegraph: ‘The householder defence was introduced in recognition of the heightened level of fear that might be experienced where a person is confronted by an intruder or trespasser in their home, resulting in disproportionate force.

‘We have campaigned to extend this defence to circumstances where a victim of domestic violence responds disproportionately, often with a weapon, to defend herself from a man who has used violence towards her in the past.

‘We hope this appeal will help open the door to further statutory reform in this area and shine a light on the level of fear experienced by such victims.’

Magson, 29, had denied murdering Knight, 26, but was convicted of the killing at Leicester Crown Court in 2016. 

Magson was jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years.

However, in January 2020, the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial after hearing new psychiatric evidence showing the defence of diminished responsibility would have been available to Magson at her first trial.

Her second trial took place at Birmingham Crown Court where a jury again found her guilty of Mr Knight’s murder, by a majority verdict of 10-2.

As the verdict was read out, Magson, wearing a pink top and dark trousers, stood with her hands clasped together, covering the lower part of her face.

Afterwards, she swayed momentarily before sitting back down with her shoulders slumped forward.

In March 2021 she was again sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years.  

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told her: ‘I regret I am unconvinced you have, as yet, any real remorse for having caused James Knight’s death.’

She was caught on police body-cam footage crying out for her boyfriend just moments after stabbing him with a steak knife and watching him die

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