Judges Overturn Murder Conviction Of Sally Challen
By Sofy Robertson
Sally Challen, who was convicted of murdering her allegedly abusive husband, has seen the conviction quashed after a landmark hearing yesterday.
Ms Challen has claimed that she was the victim of “coercive control” when she killed her husband by beating him with a hammer after 31 years of marriage.
Coercive control of a partner became a criminal offence in 2015. Ms Challen had followed the issue from jail when it became publicised by a storyline in The Archers, the BBC Radio 4 soap, in which Helen Archer was accused of attempting to murder her controlling husband, Rob.
Ms Challen watched the appeal hearing from HMP Bronzefield in Surrey where she has served almost half the minimum 18 years of her life sentence. She wept as her conviction was overturned in the Court of Appeal.
Harriet Wistrich, Ms Challen’s lawyer, spoke on her behalf following the success of the appeal, saying:
“She is delighted by the judgment but is daunted by what is to come. She is not a danger to anyone except at a particular time in specific circumstances and we are going to apply for bail as soon as we can.” (The Times)
Campaigners welcomed yesterday’s ruling. Sian Hawkins, head of public affairs at Women’s Aid explained:
“We campaigned for coercive control to be recognised in law and have been working to raise awareness about this devastating form of abuse. It is clear from the verdict that some progress has been made in relation to society’s understanding of coercive control.”
Refuge, which supports victims of domestic violence, called the judges’ decision a “very positive step forward” and White Ribbon asserted that “so much more” awareness of coercive control was needed.
Ms Challen’s son, David, 31, described the quashing of her conviction as a “watershed” in domestic violence cases. He appealed last night for his mother to be freed and for prosecutors to not make her face a retrial for the murder of his father, Richard. In a statement to the media he explained:
“She is 65 years old and we do not want her to serve any more time. She is not a murderer and we want her to live a long and independent life that she has not been able to do since the age of 15.
“The abuse our mother suffered, we felt, was never recognised properly and her mental conditions were not taken into account.” (The Times)
“As sons, we get another shot for our story to be heard, the events that led to our father’s death to be heard, and for our mother to have another shot at freedom – a freedom she has never had since the age of 15.” (The Guardian)
Ms Challen’s murder conviction was quashed after a two-day hearing presided over by Lady Justice Hallett, vice president of the criminal division of the Court Appeal and two other judges.
Lady Justice Hallett said:
“The court has heard that in the opinion of a consultant forensic psychiatrist the appellant was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing.
“This evidence was not available at the trial. The court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.” (The Times)
Ms Challen killed her husband in August 2010 and claimed to have endured his infidelity and cruelty throughout their marriage. She admitted at her trial in 2011 to killing her husband, whom she met at the age of 15, but denied the charge of murder due to diminished responsibility.
An application from Ms Challen’s lawyers to have her released on bail has been denied. The court have ordered that Challen will have to have a fresh murder charge put to her within two months.
At a press conference, Challen’s lawyer Wistrich said:
“Whatever may be the ultimate outcome, we have managed to raise awareness and a much deeper understanding of the concept of coercive control, which is such a recent one.” (The Guardian)