England

Sally Challen murder conviction quashed over husband's death

Sally Challen Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Sally Challen admitted killing her husband but denied murder

A woman who killed her husband in a hammer attack after saying she suffered decades of abuse has won an appeal to have her murder conviction quashed.

Sally Challen, 65, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted killing 61-year-old Richard in August 2010 but denied murder. She will now face a retrial.

She was convicted in June 2011 and ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years, later reduced by four years on appeal.

Lawyers had asked the Appeal Court to reduce her conviction to manslaughter.

During the two-day hearing, the court heard evidence relating to Mrs Challen's state of mind at the time of the killing and the issue of "coercive control".

Coercive control describes a pattern of behaviour by an abuser to harm, punish or frighten their victim and became a criminal offence in England and Wales in December 2015.

Mrs Challen's murder conviction was overturned by three judges who said the evidence of a psychiatrist, that 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.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Sally and Richard Challen had two sons and had been married for 31 years

Mrs Challen, who appeared at the appeal via video-link from HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, was visibly emotional as she was told of the decision.

Relatives and supporters in the public gallery cheered and applauded.

Mrs Challen, whose name is Georgina but is known as Sally, will face a retrial on a charge of murder after the panel of judges refused to substitute a manslaughter conviction.

The two-day hearing followed a campaign by her sons David, 31, and James, 35.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, David said: "It's an amazing moment. The courts have acknowledged that this case needs to be looked at again, as we have always said as a family.

"The abuse our mother suffered, we felt, was never recognised properly and her mental conditions were not taken into account.

"Her sons will get another shot for the events that led to our father's death to be heard, and for our mother to have another shot at freedom."

In court

By Helena Lee, BBC News, Court of Appeal

Such was the interest in the case that by mid-morning on the first day Lady Justice Hallett, one of the three senior judges on the panel, asked for a bigger courtroom so more people could get in.

Although Sally Challen wasn't there in person those in the courtroom could see her on screens via video-link from prison.

When it was time for the judgement her supporters waited anxiously.

They erupted in cheers as Lady Justice Hallett said Mrs Challen's murder conviction would be quashed.

Then there was silence as a retrial was announced. Her son David wept. His mother cried too.

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