Murderer of Bratton solicitor loses court appeal to clear name

Jim Ward, from Bratton, was shot in his Devizes office in July 2012

Michael Chudley

First published in Westbury

A businessman facing life in prison for the murder of a Wiltshire solicitor today failed in a Court of Appeal bid to clear his name.

Michael Chudley, 63, shot dad-of-three James Ward, 58, in his office at MGW Law, in Devizes, in July 2012.

He was initially accused of attempted murder, but his charge was upgraded when Mr Ward died three weeks later.

Chudley claimed diminished responsibility, but was convicted by a jury of murder at Winchester Crown Court last June and jailed for life.

Today, still claiming he was suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time, he took his case to the Court of Appeal in London.

However, it took three top judges only 10 minutes to rule Chudley's appeal "unarguable".

The businessman shot Mr Ward, from Bratton, after becoming embroiled in a legal dispute with one of the solicitor's clients.

The wrangle had resulted in Chudley losing his home and his business.

At his trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and today claimed that that defence to murder should have succeeded.

The trial judge's summing up of the evidence to the jury was "biased" against him, he claimed.

He also criticised his legal representatives, suggesting they did not carry out his instructions.

Giving judgment, Lady Justice Rafferty rejected all criticisms of the course that the trial took.

The trial judge had properly instructed the jury on how to consider the case, she said.

"The jury was fully entitled to find as it did on the evidence presented to it," she added.

"This application is rejected."

Lady Justice Rafferty heard the appeal bid with Mr Justice Cooke and Mr Justice Cranston.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree