See below for a guide to the law and what you should expect if you or a family member are charged with murder. It includes five case studies of clients we have successfully defended. See the menu on this page for further sections about different types of murder case such as conspiracy to murder, joint enterprise, forensic evidence, and manslaughter.

Murder – how the law works

Murder is committed when a person of ‘sound mind’ unlawfully kills another, with the aim of to either killing the other person or causing them ‘grievous bodily harm’. Sound mind in this sense means legally sane. Unlawfully killing means without a legal reason such as self defence.
criminal lawyersThe person charged with murder must be tried at a Crown Court before a judge and jury. After one appearance before a Magistrates Court, the case will be sent directly to the Crown Court. The trial will take place some months later in front of a judge and jury.Murder is committed when a person of “sound mind” unlawfully kills another, with the intention to either kill or cause “grievous bodily harm”.

Our specialist murder solicitors’ case studies

Any murder lawyer can claim to have expertise in different types of criminal case. Mary Monson defended her first murder case in 1982, and we have acted in dozens of high profile murder cases since then. We have included here some case studies to give some idea of how we prepare our cases.

The Strangeways Riot Case

Our client was Alan Lord, the alleged Strangeways Riot Ring Leader. He was charged with murder of a fellow inmate. After arguments were made over causation of the inmate’s death and reliability of witness evidence, our client was acquitted.

Verdict: Not guilty of murder

The Penny Black Murder

Our client was the late Damien Noonan, Hacienda Club doorman, who was accused of the murder of alleged gangster “White Tony” Johnson in February 1991. This killing was allegedly over drugs in the Manchester club scene.

This case involved alibi evidence, and required tracing potential witnesses, and attempted intimidation of Mary by a serious criminal co-defendant.

Verdict: Not guilty of murder

Alleged gang murder by joint enterprise

Our client was accused along with five other men of the murder by joint enterprise of a drug dealer. There was no evidence of him being at the scene, but extensive phone traffic evidence. We challenged the significance of this circumstantial evidence.

Verdict: Not guilty of murder

The gang murder behind the London Riots

Our client was Warren Allen, who was charged with the murder of Kelvin Easton, close friend of Mark Duggan. The case became known as ‘the unavenged murder behind the London Riots’. The theory that Mr Duggan was preparing a revenge attack against our client when he himself was shot by police resulted in a court order forbidding the media from publishing details of this case while the trial was ongoing.

Verdict: Not guilty of murder

Bail

Bail can be applied for but there is no presumption in favour of bail being granted as there is for less serious offences. It should be said that judges are reluctant in most cases to allow a defendant to be on bail during proceedings. The reasons most commonly given include the risk that a defendant will not return to court when required, or in some cases that he or she may commit a further offence.

Sentences in murder cases

murder solicitorsMurder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. This does not mean that a convicted defendant will spend the rest of his or her life in prison. When a judge passes a sentence of life imprisonment he or she must recommend how long the defendant will spend in prison before they can apply for parole (release). This will depend on the seriousness of the facts of the offence, for example on the way in which the offence was committed, whether it was planned, whether it was with anyone else’s help, or whether a weapon was used. Murders involving weapons or which take place in the home of the victim can attract sentences with a twenty year minimum. Sentences of 25 years or more can be handed down if the murder was extensively planned, and even longer is possible if a gun was used.

Attempted Murder

Where there is an attack of a similar level of seriousness to some murders, but the victim has not died, the person of course cannot be charged with murder, but the offence of attempted murder could apply. To be guilty of this offence, a person must have the intention to kill another person, and have done something to set the train in motion to commit the killing. This could mean that knocking on someone’s door with a kitchen knife, while intending to kill them could be considered attempted murder, even if it went no further. Physically stabbing at someone with a knife, but not succeeding is much more likely to be considered attempted murder. But in most cases, attempted murder usually has to involve an attempt so serious that death could well have followed from the actions of the defendant. A stab to the neck or chest where the victim survived could be an example of this.

Among other things, a jury will look at the following factors in deciding whether someone is guilty of attempted murder:

Specialist attempted murder solicitors should be able to advise fully if there is any doubt.

Defences to Murder

General defences which may also apply to a person charged with murder include self-defence and defence of another, but certain defences such as loss of control only apply to murder. For more information click here.

The Correct Way to Prepare a Murder Case?

Unlike many other types of offence, the circumstances of murder can be so varied that no single key approach “works”. Forensic evidence can often be of great importance, as well as a knowledge of the types of weapon involved. Specialist experts in forensic pathology, DNA, Ballistics, Fingerprints, or even CCTV enhancement may be required. Read forensic evidence or medical forensic evidence for more information. 

All of the above may be relevant, or maybe only one or two aspects, but the most important element of a murder defence is to aggressively pursue every line of enquiry that might assist the client’s case, be it scientific, factual, or even be a “long shot”. charged with murderWhere there is a potential life sentence in the offing for a guilty verdict for the person charged with murder, there are no long shots, only possibilities which must be followed up.
The client must also have an opportunity to be guided page by page by his or her solicitor through every piece of prosecution evidence against him or her. While it is impossible to completely remove uncertainty from a murder trial, a client should go into the trial knowing the detail of the prosecution case, and having a clear idea of his or her defence strategy, and this should be prepared in advance with the specialist murder solicitor on his or her legal team.

Specialist Murder Barristers

The barristers must be chosen according to the particular client and according to the nature of the case. A QC (often the highest grade of barrister) will usually be required as well as an experienced less senior barrister. Barristers should be chosen not just on the basis of recommendation, but on the basis of direct experience of their work and a knowledge of their track record. We will not trust our clients’ liberty with barristers who we do not know to be excellent, and have used some of the country’s top QCs in major trials.

Some of the Barristers we have instructed (most before they were QCs) include:

If you or a family member are worried about an investigation or prosecution for murder, please call us and speak to one of our specialist lawyers throughout the UK. We are always happy to talk.