Former Gulf News editor Francis Matthew is due back in Dubai court on Wednesday and may be released from prison following an appeal from his defence team.
Matthew was found guilty in March 2018 of assault leading to death, after he struck his wife Jane Matthew with a hammer in their villa in Dubai in July 2017. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Matthew had originally told police that their home was broken into by robbers, who killed his wife. At a later interrogation, he confessed that the couple had a heated argument over finances.
He also claimed his wife pushed him and called him a “loser”, after which he followed her into the bedroom and struck her twice on her head with a hammer, according to a police report.
His prison term was later increased to 15 years after the Dubai Court of Appeal found him guilty of premediated murder, rejecting a previous appeal to have his sentence reduced because of temporary insanity triggered by “emotional stress.”
In June, however, his defence lawyer, Ali Al Shamsi, informed the judge that Jane Matthew had only two legal heirs. One, the couple’s son, signed a waiver dropping criminal charges.
The other – Jane Matthew’s father – refused to drop the charges, but died in March 2019.
With the dead of the accused’s father in law, all private charges against him were dropped, as the right of the victims’ legal successor no longer applies as per UAE law.
Public law – which is the right of the government – still applies.
Under UAE law, however, if the legal successors of a victim waive their right to private law, the court can still impose a penalty under public law, although prison terms are shorter in length in such cases.
“When a legal heir of a victim waives their private right in the criminal case, the sentence expected to be issued, based on the public right of law, is almost up to two years,” another of Matthew’s defence lawyers, Musaab Al Naqbi, was quoted as saying by the National newspaper.
The defence team is expected to argue that the court never properly justified premeditated murder charges, meaning that the charge could return to being an assault that led to death.
“But nothing is certain, because it all goes back to the court’s discretion based on the details of the case and evidence provided,” Al Naqbi told the newspaper.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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