Appeal case of former Gulf News editor Francis Matthew adjourned

The journalist's lawyers called for more time to prepare their case, after the Briton's 15-year sentence for killing his wife was overturned last year

Francis Matthew had his 15-year jail term overturned last year. The National  
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The appeal hearing of a former newspaper editor convicted of killing his wife after a row at their Dubai home was delayed on Wednesday to allow his defence team more time to prepare.

Lawyers acting for Francis Matthew, the former Gulf News editor, were expected to call for the Briton to be freed at Dubai Court of Appeal.

But the court agreed to adjourn the case until November 6 after a brief hearing at which Matthew was present.

“We want to prepare our defence argument,” said his lawyer, Ali Al Shamsi.

The appeal case was initially due to be heard on September 3, only to be rescheduled until October 23  so that Matthew could attend court.

In March last year, Matthew was sentenced to 10 years in jail after being convicted of physical assault that led to the death of his wife, Jane. The verdict prompted members of her family to insist "justice had not been done".

His prison term was increased to 15 years in October last year when Dubai Court of Appeal convicted him of premeditated murder, rejecting his appeal for a reduced sentence because of temporary insanity triggered by "emotional stress".

Dubai Court of Cassation — the emirate's highest judicial body — then overturned the journalist's sentence in December and ordered that his case be reviewed by another panel of judges.

It was on July 4, 2017, that Matthew called Dubai Police to report that his wife Jane, 62, had been killed by thieves during a break-in at their three-bedroom home while he was at work.

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

During questioning, Matthew later admitted to killing his wife after an argument related to their dwindling finances and debts of about Dh1 million.

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

Matthew, 62, took a hammer from the kitchen, followed her to the bedroom and hit her on the head, then staged a robbery scene.

His confession set in motion a long and complex chain of events that is still unravelling.

The latest twist in the case came at Dubai Court of Appeal in June, when Matthew's lawyer, Mr Al Shamsi, told judges the victim 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 were 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.

Musaab Al Naqbi, another lawyer in Matthew's defence team, previously told The National they would argue that Matthew, in light of his son dropping charges, should be released as sufficient time has already been served, or his term at least be significantly cut from the 15 years previously ordered.