In 1989, Kiranjit Ahluwalia was convicted of the murder of her husband after 10 years of marriage. She was sentenced to imprisonment for life.

At the request of Southall Black Sisters, we took over Kiranjit’s legal representation after she had started serving her sentence. Following a detailed examination of the history of her marriage, and a public campaign spear-headed Southall Black Sisters, and supported by Justice for Women, we appealed against the conviction.

In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal set aside Kiranjit’s conviction and ordered a re-trial. At her re-trial, the prosecution accepted her plea of guilty to manslaughter. Three years and four months after she had been charged with her husband’s murder, Kiranjit won her freedom.

Kiranjit’s case established for the first time in English legal history that, in cases of domestic violence, the court could examine the history of abuse to understand the actions of a defendant. As a result, it opened the gateway to appeal for many other women in a similar predicament.

The case generated more than 25 years of national and international media reporting. Women’s organisations, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, academics, writers, commentators and politicians all called for a change in the law. Eventually, the Law Commission carried out a thorough examination of the relevant law. Finally, in 2010, Parliament abolished the law which had resulted for over 150 years in injustice to women in Kiranjit’s position, and replaced it.

Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Rahila Gupta told Kiranjit’s story in her autobiography, “Provoked”. A film inspired by the book and the case, Provoked, starring Aishwarya Rai, was released in 2006.

For media coverage of the case, please visit our Judgments and Media page.