WOMEN'S groups and a Labour MP have said they are 'appalled' and that 'it's not justice' after a Court of Appeal judgement declined to increase the sentence of Darlington killer Sam Pybus.

Sam Pybus was jailed for four years and eight months after admitting the manslaughter of Sophie Moss, 33, at her home in Darlington in February.

The length of his sentence caused a public outcry and Labour MP Harriet Harman asked for the sentence to be reviewed saying it "did not reflect the gravity of the crime".

The case was taken to the Court of Appeal today (Friday) by Attorney General Suella Braverman to increase Pybus’s sentence.

Read more: Court of Appeal declines to increase sentence of Darlington killer Sam Pybus

However the appeal was rejected after Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Lady Justice Carr and Mr Justice Murray, said “Bearing all the circumstances of this case in mind, we are not persuaded that the judge was wrong in categorisation, was wrong in the uplift he applied… or was wrong in the element of discount that he gave for mitigation and then for his plea of guilty.”

In reaction Harriet Harman Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said: "I think it's not justice and it's not justice for Sophie and it's not Pybus being beld accountable. And this confirms why we must have a new law to make sure that men who claim rough sex gone wrong defence are prosecuted for sex murder with a mandatory life sentence.

"This is the ultimate victim blaming and it's the ultimate male excuses for domestic violence. 

"I asked the Attorney to go to the Court of Appeal. It was my request that she go to the Court of Appeal and ask the court to rule that it's an unduly lenient sentence. And I think that if the Court of Appeal won't hold men responsible for killings in these circumstances, then we have no alternative but to change the law.

"I know that [Sophie's family] want privacy in which to grieve and we will continue to quest for the justice that was denied to Sophie and then basically that until the law clamps down on this women will continue to be killed by men who are prepared to take fatal risks for the purpose of their own sexual gratification, and risk the woman's life.

"The law should say if a man intends to do what it was that killed the woman, and he was doing it in the course of sexual gratification then that is murder and Sam Pybus did intend to interrupt Sophie's breathing. He admitted that and since he intended the thing that killed heer that should be murder. This is just yet another of a long series of cases of men who did inttend to do the thing that killed the woman but who can say I didn't intend to kill her. And therefore, it's not murder.

"This is about producing a draft clause which would make it a criminal offence and seeking to persuade the government. The goverment don't want men to stand in the dock and claim it wasn't their fault that the woman died at their hands. And neither does Parliament, what needs to happen is the government needs to recognise that that is exactly what is still happening and therefore further action needs to be taken.

"It's happened all around the country. Laura Farris MP has calculated that it happens once eveery nine months. So every nine months a man will be standing in the dock and it will happen again in nine months time, standing in the edock saying it's not my fault it was her fault it was what she asked for. So, rough sex gone wrong defence cases happen every nine months."

Fiona Mackenzie from We Can't Consent To This, a women's group against the 'rough sex' defence, said: “The AG was right to try to argue that there was an obviously seriously harmful or fatal outcome to the strangulation. It would be ‘obvious to any reasonable person’ that she was unconscious, and that this would be followed by death. This was a desperately serious and sustained assault, of a vulnerable woman, by an intimate partner.

"We were horrified to see the court accept Pybus’ claim that Sophie had consented, and was a willing participant, in what Lady Macur called a ‘risky sexual practice’, despite this never being tested in court, and despite this being strongly refuted by Sophie’s former long-term partner and by Sam Pybus’ ex-wife.

"We attempted with CWJ (Centre for Women's Justice) to intervene in the appeal – providing evidence that strangulation is a core part of domestic and sexual abuse, and that claims of ‘consent’ to strangulation were too easily being accepted by courts in giving lighter sentences and lesser charges.

"This was rejected by Lady Macur who agreed with Pybus’ defence team that Sophie’s strangulation was consensual and so our evidence did not apply.

"This could not be clearer case to show that the law (what it says and how it works) must change. Sophie Moss deserves better, and parliament must return to this."

Harriet Wistrich director of CWJ, said: "Unfortunately the AG was bound to accept the case as presented by the prosecutor in the lower court and in particular that Sophie Moss “enjoyed asphyxiation”. This is a form of victim blaming, suggesting that she was partly culpable for her own death. The evidence is based on the account given by the perpetrator and by one other man who also used her for sex and contradicted by her longer-term ex-partner and father of her children. The deceased of course could not give her own account. Even if she had consented to being strangled on previous occasions, it is pure speculation to suggest she had consented on this occasion.

"We believe in addition to reviewing the law, there needs to be a change in approach to the prosecution of such cases so that a proper review of surrounding all evidence is taken into account before conceding the defendant’s account.

"This case also demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the nature of domestic abuse and of violent male offending.”

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