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The BBC's James Helm
"Zoora Shah's supporters say she had snapped after years of abuse"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Arsenic killer's sentence cut
Shah's supporters
Supporters have mixed feelings about the decision
A woman jailed for poisoning a man she claimed abused her has had her recommended sentence cut from 20 to 12 years by Home Secretary Jack Straw.


Given the amount of time that men get in comparison, the tariff set for my mother is a farce

Naseem Shah
Zoora Shah's case has been at the forefront of the debate on how the law should treat abused women who kill since she was jailed for life at Leeds Crown Court in 1993.

Pressure groups have argued that the treatment the mother-of-three suffered was never considered seriously during her trial.

Mr Straw's move comes as 18-year-old Julie Adamson was spared jail after admitting she had killed her violent older boyfriend.

When Shah, 46, was convicted of giving arsenic to drug-dealing Bradford businessman Mohammed Azam, her 20-year sentence was confirmed by the then Lord Chief Justice.

Zoora Shah
Zoora Shah: Jailed in1993
But her supporters argue that Shah, who is illiterate and comes from rural Pakistan, had poisoned Azam as a last resort after he had physically and emotionally tormented her for more than a decade.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the case had now been re-examined and "mitigating and aggravating" circumstances taken into account, including testimony from pressure groups.

In the light of this the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, had recommended to Jack Straw that the original tariff be cut.

'Victory' for campaign

Southall Black Sisters, which has campaigned for Shah's release, welcomed the announcement but criticised Mr Straw's "lack of moral courage" in not ordering her immediate release.

Hannana Siddiqui said: "This announcement represents a victory for the campaign.

"It is, however, an indictment of our times that the criminal justice system still cannot distinguish between those who kill from a position of power and those who do so out of despair."

Shah's daughter, 26-year-old Naseem Shah said: "Given the amount of time that men get in comparison, the tariff set for my mother is a farce.

"We expected Jack Straw to show some understanding but this shows that he is not capable of it."

Killer spared jail

Earlier on Tuesday, Julie Adamson was spared a jail sentence for killing her abusive partner. A judge accepted that the abuse had drawn her into depression and psychosis.

Adamson, from Hove, East Sussex, was sentenced to three months' probation for killing 31-year-old Robert Kavanagh as he slept.

The teenager, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Lewes Crown Court last month. She had denied murder.

Judge Richard Brown, sentencing at the court, said it was an exceptional case.

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