Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 17:50 UK

Judge 'should have stopped trial'

Kathleen Johnson and Paul Slack
Kathleen Johnson and Paul Slack had both denied the charges against them

The trial of a man and woman for killing a Norfolk man with a walking stick should have been stopped by the judge, the Appeal Court has heard.

Kathleen Johnson and Paul Slack are appealing against their convictions of the manslaughter and murder of Alan Bowles in Great Yarmouth in May 2007.

Johnson, 59, was jailed for three years and Slack, 49, received a life-term.

Johnson's lawyer told the Court of Appeal the trial jury should not have been told of her previous convictions.

Rammed down throat

The prosecution at the Norwich Crown Court trial in August 2008 said the evidence established her "bad character" and propensity to violence.

It claimed Mr Bowles, 64, was killed when Slack rammed his walking stick down his throat following an argument.

Johnson denied involvement in the attack, but was convicted on the basis the killing of Mr Bowles had been a "joint enterprise".

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Johnson had done anything to encourage the "unusual and unforeseen" attack on Mr Bowles.

Vincent Coughling QC argued at the Court of Appeal that the evidence of previous convictions, including of an attack against her 86-year-old mother, would not assist the jury "one iota".

'Prejudice the jury'

"The assault on her mother in her home is just an abhorrent offence that would seek only to prejudice the jury's mind," he added.

"It would serve only to overshadow the jury's prime consideration, which was to look at all the evidence available to them."

He concluded that the jury, having heard the "bad character" evidence during the prosecution case, should have been discharged from giving a verdict.

Stephen Spence, representing Slack, argued that, if the jury was discharged in relation to Johnson, then her evidence would no longer be relevant in relation to him.

As she had already given evidence and her statements had been put before the jury, the jurors should have been discharged in relation to Slack, he added.

After hearing the arguments, Lord Justice Maurice Kay adjourned for a short period, before returning to court to reserve his judgement on the appeals.

The judgement will be handed down on a yet unspecified date.

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