Businessman jailed for 28 years for murder of solicitor

18/06/2013

Michael Chudley, 63, from Wiltshire was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 28 years today at Salisbury Crown Court for the murder of James Ward, a solicitor who died after being shot in his office in Devizes on 2 July 2012.

Rachael Marshall, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in Wessex, said: James Ward, a 58-year-old solicitor and father of three, was shot in his office at MGW Law in Devizes on July 2, 2012.The difficulty in this case was proving to the jury that Michael Chudley was fully responsible for his actions at the time he shot James Ward.

 During the course of the trial the jury heard that whilst Michael Chudley was suffering from a personality disorder, this was not the type of mental illness that would have prevented him from understanding what he was doing or that would have stopped him exercising self-control.

 The jury also heard that the Michael Chudley held Mr Ward responsible for separate unsuccessful civil proceedings and, as a result of that belief, on 2 July 2012 he entered Mr Wards office armed with a sawn-off shotgun and fired at him. Mr Ward died of his injuries three weeks later.

 It was the prosecutions case that Michael Chudley had calmly premeditated to cause very serious injuries to Mr Ward and that in order to do so he threatened to shoot Mr Wards receptionist, Daphne Courtney, if she refused to let him into her boss office. Mr Wards wife, Nicola Morris, a solicitor for the same practice, was working in an adjacent office and on hearing the threats made to her husband, she ran out to seek help at which point she saw the gun.

 Today, after hearing the prosecution and the defences case, the jury has found him guilty of the murder of Mr Ward and convicted him of making threats to kill Ms Courtney.

 Ms Morris and Ms Courtney had to relive these terrifying moments in court when giving evidence. We hope that this conviction will bring some comfort to Mr Wards wife, children, family and friends and our thoughts are with them at this time.

 Michael Chudley also pleaded guilty on 14 June at Salisbury Crown Court to two firearms offences.