Christopher Lumsden, a wealthy banking partner in an international firm of lawyers is 52 years old and has a muscle wasting disease. He apparently had a troubled relationship with his parents, had been bullied at school and had a 'volcanic and uncontrollable temper' in his youth. He and his wife, Alison, had lived together in a victorian mansion in Cheshire until one night last March when he stabbed her in the back with a 12cm kitchen knife that had somehow found itself in a bedside drawer. He then proceeded to stab her in the face and neck so many times the pathologist couldn't count the wounds.
Why? Because five days previously she had told him that she was having an affair, that she would be leaving him and that she wanted a divorce. Mrs Lumsden had obviously had enough. Mr Lumsden, it seems to me, was jealous and angry.
Judging by the reports, Mr Lumsden played all the sympathy cards he could muster during his trial - his illness, his contemplation of suicide, his troubled childhood, his depression since the death of his mother, Mrs Lumsden's HRT treatment (we all know menopausal women are madder than most, don't we?), his feelings of abandonment and betrayal, his apparent willingness to do anything to save his marriage - and he 'cried frequently' in the witness box.
And it worked! He was sentenced to five years for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The judge told him that he’d only have to serve half of that and the time he’s spent on remand will count towards it. So he’ll only be in prison for nineteen months. Nineteen months for murdering a woman because she no longer wanted to be with him.
Statistically, women are at greatest danger of being murdered when they are preparing to leave their partner or after having done so. Two men every week kill their current or former partner in the UK.
From reading the reports it seems to me that Mrs Lumsden was being blamed for her own death in the subtext of the trial. For a start she wasn’t being a ‘good wife’. She was having an affair – read: slut. She had become ‘hypercritical’ – read: nagging slut. She was having that affair with one of her husband’s friends – read: traitorous nagging slut. She’d moved out of their bedroom so denying him his conjugal rights – read: uppity traitorous nagging slut.
Nor was she being a ‘good woman’. Her husband was ill and may only have three years to live and she didn’t want to stay with him – read: heartless uppity traitorous nagging slut. She intended to leave this moneyed man and all the unsaid trappings of his wealth – read: ungrateful heartless uppity traitorous nagging slut. She just wanted to live her own life – read: selfish ungrateful heartless uppity traitorous nagging slut.
Contrast this with the eight cases Justice for Women are currently fighting. Women serving years – not months – for murder, not manslaughter. Women whose lives were made a misery by the men they killed. It’s a terrifying litany of violence, rape, assault and systematic abuse over extended periods of time. Women so damaged by childhood sexual abuse and violent relationships, abused women acting in self defence who can see no other way out. Women whose experiences were either dismissed, disregarded, or ignored by the court.
Now, I'm not a legal person and I can't help but wonder why Mr Lumsden appears to have been treated differently. Ok; he'd had a 'troubled relationship' with his parents - don't we all at some point? His illness has changed his life - yes, as serious, possibly terminal, illness does for thousands of people every day. His wife was seeing someone else and intended to leave him and, having put a brave face on it for five days, he finally "broke".
If Mr Lumsden's responsibility is deemed diminished by this unhappy set of circumstances how come the same rules don't apply to the desperate and torturous circumstances of the eight women being supported by Justice for Women? Women who didn't have kitchen knives secreted within handy reach. Women who hadn't thought about killing their abusers until they found themselves in a position with no way out and, even then, only thought about their own survival not the others death. Women who had been hit and hurt and raped and abused by the men they eventually killed.
Why don't the same rules apply to them?