March 1, 2019 | News | No Comments
A woman who killed her husband in a hammer attack has won an appeal against her murder conviction after arguing she acted as the result of decades of abuse. Georgina Challen, 65, known as Sally, said she killed her husband Richard, 61, at their home in Surrey in August 2010 after 40 years of being controlled and humiliated by him. She was jailed for life in 2011 after being found guilty of his murder, but today had her conviction overturned in a landmark case on the basis of ‘coercive control’.
Challen’s case, which is supported by Justice for Women, was brought forward after lawyers argued that ‘fresh evidence’ on the issue of coercive control would help a jury today reach a different verdict. Lady Justice Hallett said the court was satisfied that the fresh evidence undermined the safety of her previous conviction. At her 2011 trial at Guildford Crown Court, Challen, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted killing her former car dealer husband but denied murder, claiming diminished responsibility. The prosecution case was that it was the action of a jealous woman who suspected infidelity. She was jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years, later reduced on appeal by four years. The defence of coercive control as a form of domestic abuse only passed into law in 2015, so was not available to Challen at the time of her trial
Her barrister, Clare Wade QC, told the court today that, because it was not understood at the time, the issue of coercive control was ‘not sufficiently marshalled and not sufficiently analysed’ for the argument that was being run in Challen’s defence. She said: ‘Our understanding of coercive control has developed since the appellant trial.
It wasn’t known about at the time of the trial and it wasn’t fully appreciated and, because of that, the facts weren’t presented in a way that was consistent with coercive control.’ She said the theory of coercive control explains how behaviours are used to abuse people in relationships and ‘shifts the emphasis away from physical harm’. There were incidents Challen had mentioned in her police interview, including the fact she received no help from her husband as a new mother, which were not put forward in evidence because they were not thought to be relevant at the time, Ms Wade said.
The barrister also said forensic psychiatrist Dr Gwen Adshead, who saw Challen in prison in 2015 after she suffered a manic episode, had concluded she was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing. Dr Adshead believed these were ‘suppressed’ by the coercive control operating within the marriage. Scores of demonstrators attended the hearing, which ran over two days, following a high-profile campaign by Challen’s sons David, 31, and James, 35. Speaking before the hearing, David Challen said: ‘This affects not just our mother but thousands of victims who don’t have a voice, both men and women. ‘Me and my brother have spoken out, not just for our parents but for other victim too.