A case worthy of further consideration

Veterinary surgeon Ryan James who is serving life for the murder of his wife is expected to appear in the Court of Criminal Appeal shortly to challenge his conviction.

James was said to have killed his 39-year-old wife Sandra by lacing her orange juice with a drug used to put horses to sleep.

Lord Justice Roch and Mr Justice Forbes granted him leave on October 19 to appeal against his conviction at Stafford Crown Court.

In giving leave for 41-year-old James to appeal, the judges ordered that because the future of his three children is hanging in the balance, the hearing should be speedy.

James, a partner in a veterinary practice at Springwood, Staffordshire, was given a minimum sentence of 20 years by Mr Justice Hidden, following his conviction.

The judge, in passing sentence, branded James: "The most evil, selfish and criminally callous man" that he had sentenced.

James has always protested his innocence and denied administering the drugs Immobilon and pheno barbitone to his wife.

At the trial it was claimed that James made his wife's death look like suicide in order to receive an £180,000 insurance pay-out. One of his motives was said to have been that he could not afford to keep both his wife and his mistress.

James later married his mistress, Catherine Crooks, in a ceremony at Gartree Prison which was attended by his three children.

In his summing up at the trial Mr Justice Hidden told the jury there were no alternatives other than that James had killed his wife or she had killed herself.

In the Appeal Court, however, Lord Justice Roch said the defence claimed that Mr Justice Hidden's summing up had not gone far enough and that he should have given the jury an analysis of expert evidence. The case was, said Lord Justice Roch, an "unusual and difficult" one and did merit further consideration by the full court.