Plaid MS summoned over murder trial tweet

Plaid MS Helen Mary Jones, who was summoned to court over a "highly inappropriate" tweet.
Plaid MS, Helen Mary Jones, and Swansea Crown Court. Source: National Assembly for Wales (via. Flickr), and Nigel Davies (via. Geograph).
By Morgan Perry | Political Editor

Plaid MS Helen Mary Jones was summoned to court after sharing a “highly inappropriate” tweet regarding an ongoing murder trial. 

The tweet was originally posted by a domestic violence campaigner and retweeted by the Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales.

Posted by campaigner Rachel Williams, the tweet expressed “hope” that a man would be found guilty of murdering his wife. 

The case in question is that of Anthony Williams, who killed his wife, Ruth, during the lockdown in March 2020. 

Part of the tweet read: “As so many of us will know, there would have been history of domestic abuse. I hope this jury finds him guilty of murder.” 

Williams was shot by her estranged husband in 2011. She later went on to become an anti-domestic violence campaigner after her husband and then her son both took their lives following the attack. 

The tweet was later deleted, after Williams was contacted by police. 

A controversial case

In what has been seen by some as a controversial decision, Anthony Williams was found not guilty of the murder of his wife, Ruth, at their home in March last year. 

Ruth was strangled just two weeks into the first UK coronavirus lockdown. 

The court was told that Mr Williams was “out of control” with worry over the COVID-19 pandemic and money; his daughter said that he feared “people would never leave the house again” after entering lockdown.

After being found not guilty of murder, the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison, and admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, with the judge arguing that his mental state was “severely affected at the time” of the attack. 

The short sentence, and the fact that Mr Williams avoided a sentence for murder, has been seen as unjustified by some. 

Harriet Harman, the Labour MP, said that she would be writing to the attorney general, Suella Braverman, to ask for the case to be referred for a review, on account of the lenient sentence. 

“If he had killed his neighbour, or his neighbour’s wife, it’s inconceivable that he would have got five years,” she said. 

Domestic violence charities are also concerned. Welsh Women’s Aid, a Cardiff-based domestic violence charity, said they had seen an increase in demand for their services since lockdown started. 

“We are shocked by the leniency in this case and a precedent must not be set that allows domestic homicide to be an inevitable result of the current restrictions,” a spokesperson for the charity said.

More court drama

Helen Mary Jones and Rachel Williams were summoned to court on Thursday, February 18, where judge Paul Thomas said the tweet “ran the risk of influencing a jury”.

“On the face of it, it amounts to a clear contempt of court. You both abused your social media, political influences and high profiles,” he said. 

Jurors in England and Wales are told to deliver verdicts solely based on the evidence heard in court, and so information or commentary from external sources such as social media can jeopardise a trial. 

Jones claimed that she had not read the tweet from Ms Williams “carefully” but accepted her responsibility in the matter. 

Judge Thomas decided that no further action needed to be taken against either of the women, adding that only “admonishment is appropriate”.

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Politics Morgan Perry

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