Sunday, 5 December 2021

Mother who stamped daughter to death appeals conviction because her lawyer was interrupted by judge

Kathryn Smith, 23, outside Birmingham Crown Court

BIRMINGHAM: A mother who was jailed for life after stamping to death her 21-month-old daughter has launched an appeal against her conviction. Kathryn Smith was convicted of child cruelty and handed a minimum term of 24 years in April following a majority verdict at Birmingham Crown Court. The 23-year-old’s daughter Ayeeshia Jane Smith suffered months of abuse was described by investigators as suffering the sort of injuries one would sustain a car crash. Her ex-partner, 22-year-old Matthew Rigby, was jailed for three years and six months for causing or allowing Ayeeshia Jane’s death at the family home in Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire. The little girl was known to Derbyshire social services from birth and had been in care for a brief period from mid-2013, before she was returned to her mother’s custody. Smith challenged her conviction at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, where her barrister argued it was “unsafe”. John Butterfield QC, who also represented Smith at trial, said an interruption by the trial judge during his closing speech in Smith’s defence caused “prejudice” in the minds of the jurors.

He said: “The judge weighed in and weighed in in a way that was wrong, I say, on a number of different levels, in the middle of defence counsel’s closing address. “To trespass on the closing remarks at all was a risk and was likely to have consequences. “But to trespass on them to the extent and degree that was done here was dramatic and it cannot be said that the conviction is safe, I’m afraid, because of these matters.” Christopher Hotten QC, who prosecuted Smith, denied that the judge’s interruption caused the conviction to be unsafe. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Wyn Williams and Mr Justice Goss, are expected to give a ruling in the New Year. If Smith’s conviction appeal is unsuccessful, Lord Thomas said the minimum jail term handed to Smith would be reviewed.

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