Commission refers the murder conviction of Deborah McCarthy-Winzar to the Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Deborah McCarthy-Winzar to the Court of Appeal.

Ms McCarthy-Winzar pleaded not guilty to the murder of her husband, Dominic McCarthy, when she stood trial at Birmingham Crown Court in July 2000. She was convicted on 19 July 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

On 31st January 1997 Mr McCarthy had been found unconscious and profoundly hypoglycaemic. He was taken to hospital for treatment but did not regain consciousness and died on 9 February 1997. Hospital laboratory tests revealed that Mr McCarthy had had a very high insulin level and an unmeasurable level of c-peptide. The prosecution case was that Mr McCarthy’s hypoglycaemia must have resulted from being administered a large dose of insulin, and that Ms McCarthy-Winzar alone had the opportunity to administer this. In addition, she was a nurse and had access to insulin, and the skills to inject it.

Ms McCarthy-Winzar denied any wrong-doing at all, stated that she had a happy marriage, and maintained that her husband must have died of natural causes.

Ms McCarthy-Winzar appealed against her conviction, but the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 20 December 2002. She applied to the Commission in June 2005.

The Commission has conducted a wide range of enquiries during its extensive review of this case. Numerous experts have been consulted in what has been a highly complex review, exploring the latest developments in the relevant science. As a result of its enquiries, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. The Commission considers that new opinion evidence from medical experts gives rise to a real possibility that the conviction will be quashed.

This press release was issued by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. For further enquires call 0121 233 1473 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

Notes for editors

  1. The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
  2. There are currently 12 Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
  3. The Commission usually receives around 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year.  Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 29, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
  4. The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made.  New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal.  Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
  5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.