Sally Challen defence QC leads domestic homicide review

Published
image source, David Challen
image captionSally Challen returned home to her sons in 2019 after her murder conviction was quashed

The defence barrister for Sally Challen, who was the first woman to have her murder conviction quashed under coercive control laws, is to lead a review into domestic homicide laws.

Challen was jailed in 2011 after she killed her husband with a hammer at their former home in Claygate, Surrey.

She walked free in 2019 after lawyers argued she had suffered years of abuse.

The government has now asked Challen's lawyer, Clare Wade QC, to examine whether the law should be reformed.

It follows an initial review by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in response to concerns raised about the minimum term for murders committed with a weapon.

The department analysed more than 100 cases and Ms Wade is expected to look at the data in more detail.

Women 'choosing to survive'

Victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said: "Evidence shows that women are more likely than men to use a weapon to defend themselves against an abusive partner, but this attracts a longer sentence than violence without a weapon.

"The fear is women - who are themselves victims - are serving lengthy jail sentences for simply choosing to survive."

Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said: "It is time that we ensured that sentencing for domestic homicides truly reflect the reality and gravity of domestic abuse, which so often follows prolonged periods of abuse."

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC said: "We want to take a closer look at how the law is working to ensure the public is protected and that sentences reflect the severity of these heinous crimes."

image source, PA
image captionDavid led the campaign to have his mum freed from jail

In a landmark appeal in 2019, Ms Wade argued Challen had been a victim of coercive control - a pattern of behaviour that became a criminal offence in England and Wales in 2015.

She argued Challen had been driven to kill her 61-year-old husband Richard after enduring 40 years of psychological abuse.

'Long overdue'

After a legal battle that lasted nearly nine years, Challen's murder conviction was quashed and the Crown Prosecution Service accepted her plea of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

Challen walked free from court because of time she had already served behind bars.

Following her appointment as independent reviewer, Ms Wade said: "Traditionally, domestic homicide has not been given any special consideration within the way the courts sentence in cases of murder and manslaughter.

"Cases where a victim is killed by an intimate partner have not been seen as specialised cases and the domestic abuse which underpins many homicides is still poorly understood.

"I am delighted therefore to be leading this important review on sentencing in cases of domestic homicide. It is a complex and highly sensitive area which is long overdue."

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