Everyone must be afforded due process rights, especially those facing the ultimate penalty: execution. The DPP has made extraordinary progress in protecting this most fundamental right in a range of jurisdiction.

Reprieve for battered woman who killed husband

A woman from Belize has been cleared of murder after setting alight her partner, in response to years of his physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

In July 2010, Lavern Longsworth threw kerosene and a candle over David White at their home in Belize City, because she feared he was going to attack her. White died in hospital from his burns two weeks later.

British psychiatrist Dr Gillian Mezey, who travelled to Belize to examine Longsworth, said that Longsworth would have had a heightened sense of fear of White, on account of the long-term abuse that she had suffered. On the night in question, Longsworth would have effectively re-lived earlier experiences and would have had difficulty controlling herself against any perceived threat from him.

Longsworth was originally convicted of murder during a jury trial in November 2012. But the Court of Appeal in Belize recognized that the fresh evidence of Dr Mezey showed that Longsworth was suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome at the time of the killing, meaning that both her emotional and behavioural responses would have been affected by the repeated abuse.

Her life sentence for murder was overturned and she was sentenced to eight years imprisonment instead for manslaughter.

It is more than 20 years since Kiranjit Aluwahlia, the subject of the British film Provoked, first brought Battered Woman Syndrome into the British courtroom, in remarkably similar circumstances. Aluwahlia was convicted of burning her husband to death using a mixture of caustic soda and petrol in 1989. Supporters of Aluwahlia campaigned for change so that women who kill as a result of severe domestic violence are not treated as murderers.

It is thought, however, that this is the first time that Battered Woman Syndrome has been used in the Caribbean region as part of a defence to murder.

Former Attorney-General of Belize, Godfrey Smith SC, said the decision had helped “open the way for Battered Woman Syndrome to be used as a critical part of an accused woman’s defence in Belize”.

Godfrey Smith and Leslie Mendez, Belizean attorney-at-law, were aided by London based organisation the Death Penalty Project, which became involved after it feared a miscarriage of justice had taken place.

Barrister Amanda Clift-Matthews was instructed pro bono to assist.

Read Summary judgment



“Battered woman who killed her husband released from prison in Belize”, 27 April 2017

Other News

All prisoners serving life sentence in Belize to be re-sentenced following major decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice

April 2018
At least 44 prisoners currently serving life sentences in Belize will be re-sentenced following an ... Read more

Split Decision (Private Eye on the JCPC’s judgment in Jay Chandler)

March 2018
As reported in Private Eye Issue No.1466 (23 March- 5 April 2018) Privy Council judges ... Read more

UK judges uphold death sentence of Trinidad prisoner despite him “more likely than not” having serious mental illness

March 2018
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) has rejected the appeal of death row ... Read more

Singapore public opinion survey shows low support for the mandatory death penalty

March 2018
Research by the National University of Singapore has revealed that the Singaporean public favours a ... Read more