The mother of tragic Ayeeshia Jane Smith has been sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder, and Matthew Rigby jailed for three years six months for causing or allowing her death.
But as the sentences were announced, the barrister defending the little girl’s mother said the case epitomised fundamental cornerstones of British law.
John Butterfield QC, a barrister with No5 Chambers, was one of three silks from No5 involved in the trial which made headlines throughout its three week duration.
Mr Butterfield said: “For me, this case reminds us again that every person is entitled to a fair and robust defence.
“Our legal system is based on the vital principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty, a system that has evolved over hundreds of years and is renowned not just in Europe but worldwide.”
During the murder trial of 21-month-old Ayeeshia Jane Smith at Birmingham Crown Court, Mr Butterfield QC represented Ayeeshia’s mother, Kathryn Smith, while her partner and co-accused Matthew Rigby was represented by Mark Heywood QC, also of No5. Prosecuting was the third Queen’s Counsel from No5 Chambers, Christopher Hotten QC.
Mr Butterfield continued: “Popular TV dramas have often focussed on depictions of the law, from ‘Crown Court’ in the old days to the hugely popular BBC series ‘Silks’. Often the lead actor is seen as the hero rather than the law itself.
“But in real life, when the true day-to-day ‘drama’ unfolds, one hopes that the British rule of law emerges as the real winner, the pillar of society that makes our system so widely respected.
“No5 Chambers is an award winning chambers, and it is a matter of considerable pride that three colleagues from the same Chambers were involved in such a high-profile trial – which again demonstrated that fundamental principle of innocence until proved guilty.
“The breadth of quality at No5, in both prosecuting and defending, gives life to the equally important concept that even those accused of the most repugnant crimes, are entitled – in law – to the strongest, most thorough defence.
“And those principles have today created a legal system envied across the world alongside an industry that is worth billions of pounds to the UK.”
John Butterfield QC has practised exclusively in crime, both prosecuting and defending, since his call to the Bar in 1995. He took silk in 2014.
He is a member of the crime group at No5 Chambers and achieved national publicity for his defence of a journalist facing a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office as part of the Crown’s Operation Elveden investigation. The coverage included full-page national reports on a closing speech described by experienced media commentators as “Brilliant” and “A masterclass”.
Award winning No5 Chambers is one of the UK’s largest sets of barristers’ chambers with its head office in Birmingham and further offices in London, Bristol and East Midlands. It boasts more than 240 members including 33 Queens Counsel.