The “British Airways killer” to remain in prison until the Parole Board determines otherwise - R (Brown) v Secretary of State for Justice [2024] EWHC 429 (Admin)

Further to an expedited two-day hearing before Mr Justice Ritchie, the High Court has dismissed a judicial review challenge to a decision by the Secretary of State to retain the claimant, Mr Brown, in prison beyond the date of what would have been his automatic release on licence. The claimant’s case will instead be considered by the Parole Board, who will only order his release on licence if his imprisonment is no longer necessary for the protection of the public.

The claimant killed his estranged wife, Joanna Simpson, in 2011. He was convicted of manslaughter by way of diminished responsibility on the basis of an adjustment disorder. It was the claimant’s evidence that the disorder was caused by, among other things, the stress of the financial disputes that formed part of the couple’s divorce proceedings. The claimant buried Joanna in a pre-dug hole and was convicted of obstructing a coroner for initially refusing to disclose the whereabouts of her body.

Over a decade later, the claimant’s crime and case continue to interest the public and media, having been the subject of two recent documentaries: ‘When Missing Turns to Murder’ (Netflix) and ‘The British Airways Killer’ (ITV). 

The Secretary of State for Justice successfully defended the judicial review claim, which alleged that the statutory power had been exercised unlawfully, and without proper factual foundation, in conflict with the Secretary of State’s policy. The claimant also alleged that the decision was unlawful owing to actual or apparent bias, in light of the Secretary of State, ministers, and senior civil servants having met with Joanna’s family and friends (who, with others, formed the domestic abuse charity Refuge) to discuss their campaign to keep the claimant in prison, as well as other issues relating to domestic homicide.

Ritchie J’s judgment dismissed the claim in its entirety, holding that the exercise of the power under s.244ZB of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to retain the claimant in prison in order to refer him to the Parole Board had been lawful.

The judgment can be found here. It is only the second judgment on the s.244ZB power, which came into force in 2022. 
Scarlett Milligan of 39 Essex Chambers acted for the Secretary of State for Justice, led by Iain Steele of Blackstone Chambers.