A MAN who stabbed his alcoholic stepfather to death after being subjected to years of verbal abuse had his murder conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal.
After judges declined to order a retrial, Darren Gregson was convicted of manslaughter by way of provocation and had his life sentence replaced by an eight-year jail term.
Gregson, 31, of Springbank, Norristhorpe, Liversedge, was found guilty in November last year at Leeds Crown Court of the murder of Mark Berry, 49, following an incident on June 3, 2005.
The unemployed former tree surgeon said the row he had with Mr Berry was the final straw following numerous put downs he suffered since the late 1990s.
He stabbed him through the heart with a knife, but later said he remembered little of the incident and hadn't intended to murder Mr Berry.
Gregson's barrister, Douglas Hogg QC, argued that directions given by the Recorder of Leeds to the jury had been confusing and rendered the conviction "unsafe".
Lady Justice Smith, sitting with Judge Chapman and Mr Justice David Clarke, agreed that the jury had been "seriously misled" by the trial judge when he attempted to clarify complicated written directions on provocation he had given them.
"Concern arises from the fact the judge fell into error twice in his attempts to clarify the jury's mind and he did not correct himself," said Lady Justice Smith.
Adding that the judge's wrong directions had effectively "reversed the burden of proof" away from the Crown and on to Gregson, Lady Justice Smith said she had "real concern" over the conviction.
After allowing the appeal, the court then rejected arguments made by Andrew Campbell QC, for the Crown, that Gregson should face a second murder trial.
Mr Hogg had told the court that Mr Berry's wife, Gillian, who is Gregson's mother, did not want a retrial and it was not in the public interest.
Lady Justice Smith said Gregson had moved into the house his mother shared with Mr Berry in 1997, but over the years a "tinder box" atmosphere developed.
Gregson was unable to work because of his depression and the onset of epilepsy.
Describing Gregson's life as a "misery", Lady Justice Smith he had been drinking on the day of the killing, and like Mr Berry was found to be three times over the drink drive limit.
Declining to impose a sentence of around five years, as Mr Hogg had requested, Lady Justice Smith said the attack was "serious" and Gregson's drunkeness was an aggravating factor.