Briton who killed his wife in Dubai may only serve two years in jail

The death of Francis Matthew's father-in-law means his charges against him have now been dropped

United Arab Emirates - Dubai - Feb. 26, 2009:
Francis Matthew, Gulf News editor-at-large, gives a speech on media industry changes at the Dubai Press Club on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. Amy Leang/The National  
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A British man who killed his wife by beating her with a hammer may serve only two years in jail after having been sentenced to 15.

At Dubai Court of Appeal on Wednesday, Francis Matthew's lawyer, Ali Al Shamsi, told judges the victim, Jane Matthew, had only two legal heirs – her father and son. Her son had previously signed a waiver dropping criminal charges against Matthew, but Jane's father refused.

Matthew's father-in-law died in March, meaning all private charges against him have now been dropped.

Two types of laws are applied to every case: private and public.

While private law – the right of the victim's legal successor against an accused – no longer applies in this case because of the death of Jane's father, the public law – the right of government law against an accused – is still applicable.

In UAE law, if the legal successors of a victim drop charges and waive their private rights, the court is still obliged to impose a penalty against the accused under public law – but it will be a shorter term.

The minimum sentence for murder in the UAE is 10 years in jail.

But "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 the law, is almost up to two years," said Musaab Al Naqbi, Matthew's second defence lawyer.

The length of Matthew’s sentence remains up to the discretion of the court, Mr Al Naqbi said.

Matthew, 62, will be deported upon completion of his jail term.

The former editor-at-large of Gulf News went on trial in 2017, and Dubai Criminal Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison for physical assault leading to death.

At Dubai Court of Appeal last year, the lawyer representing Mrs Matthew's family requested Matthew be charged with murder, arguing that he showed intent to kill his wife rather than only beat her.

The change in charge led the appeals court in October to increase his sentence to 15 years in prison. Mr Al Shamsi challenged the longer sentence at the Court of Cassation, saying there was insufficient evidence to indicate Matthew intended to kill his wife.

The court responded by ordering the case be heard by a new panel of appeal judges.

Mr Al Shamsi said the crime should be considered a multiple-intent crime, meaning the accused did not intend to kill the victim when he assaulted her.

He also asked the court to show Matthew leniency by issuing a verdict releasing him and considering the term served in prison as sufficient.

On July 4, 2017, Matthew called Dubai Police to report that his wife, 62, had been assaulted by thieves.

He said robbers had broken into their three-bedroom home and killed her while he was at work between 8am and 5pm.

Police found his wife of more than 30 years dead in bed with a severe head wound.

During questioning, Matthew admitted to killing his wife after an argument related to their dwindling finances.

He said she provoked him by calling him a “loser”.

Matthew took a hammer from the kitchen, followed her to the bedroom and hit her on the head, then staged a robbery scene.

The next hearing will be held on September 4.