Most of us will have seen the news last week that Sally Challen’s murder conviction was quashed over her husband’s death in a landmark appeal. Her lawyers had asked the Appeal Court to reduce her conviction to manslaughter. Her sentence was reduced by four years on appeal.
During the two day hearing, the court heard evidence relating to Mrs Challen’s state of mind at the time of the killing, and issue of coercive control.
Coercive control describes a pattern of behavior by an abuser to harm, punish or frighten their victim and became a criminal offence in England and Wales in December 2015.
The offence was only criminalised four years after Mrs Challen’s trial. Ms Wade QC told the court that a lack of understanding of the “theory of coercive control” meant that Mrs Challen’s defence lacked cohesion and the appellant’s actions were not properly explained. Ms Wade said had the Jury had the benefit of the evidence going to coercive control, as well as an understanding of the dynamic of coercive control, then they would have come to a different conclusion and the appellant would have been convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Mrs Challen’s murder conviction was overturned by three judges who said the evidence of a psychiatrist showed Mrs Challen was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing, was not available at the time of her trial and undermined the safety of her conviction.
The son David spoke out about his mother’s abuse and said
the abuse our mother suffered was never recognised properly, and her mental conditions were not taken into account. Our mother will have another shot at freedom
This case clearly highlights coercive control and the impact this has on victims. Before the hearing, Justice for Women, which has been campaigning to overturn the conviction said Mr Challen “bullied and belittled Sally, controlled her money, stopped her from having friends— not allowing her to socialise unless with him”.
Thanks to Sally Challen, justice beckons for every woman living with the invisible scars of domestic abuse.