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Story to Shine a Light on Coercive Control

View profile for Jonathan Corbishley
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A shocking tale of a woman who killed her husband with a hammer over eight years ago has resurfaced recently as her family support her bid to be released from prison.

The case of Sally Challen is well worth broadcasting to the general public as its circumstances could relate to other women.

On the face of it, it seems hard to sympathise with a woman who in a pre-meditated attack ended her husband’s life using a hammer. But on exploring further, the bid she is making for freedom from her prison sentence is being supported by her adult sons, which makes this case worthy of a second look.

The broader picture of this domestic tragedy is that Sally Challen’s family claim her life was made a complete misery by a husband, who the family say, painted a public image of a perfect family man, yet was a controlling bully.

She was charged with her husband's murder, convicted and jailed for life but now her legal team, supported by her son hope to use a law passed in 2015, which recognises coercive control as a form of domestic abuse, to ensure her future freedom. Her lawyers say that her torrid history of psychological abuse provides a defence of provocation, not previously considered in the original court case.

This is a situation that affects many people in this country regardless of social status.

The couple had separated and Sally went to visit her husband in the leafy Surrey village they had previously resided at together, but she then left after discovering he had been visiting prostitutes.

Despite their son’s adamant requests that their mother should not see him, she had secretly begun seeing Richard again, hoping they could rekindle the marriage.

What actually happened in the family home that morning was far from any reconciliation. She drove the short distance from her new home to the house they had once shared and in the handbag she took with her, she had stashed inside it, a hammer.

Richard had wanted her to approve a post-nuptial agreement that would cut her rights to the £1m family home and impose stringent conditions on her, such as not interrupting him and not talking to other people when they were together in restaurants.

As the proposed reconciliation meeting quickly turned volatile, she launched a gruesome attack, hitting him repeatedly over the head with the hammer as a weapon.

After a failed suicide attempt following the attack, where she was talked down from jumping off a cliff, she was taken into custody, tried and imprisoned for life. In March 2018, Sally Challen won leave to appeal against her conviction.

Her lawyer believes this is the first time coercive control has been used as a defence in a murder appeal and is hoping the appeal court could reduce the conviction to manslaughter or order a retrial.

It is a challenge backed by her family who witnessed the years of maltreatment that she had suffered at the hands of Richard.

If her appeal is successful it will reframe domestic abuse and put a spotlight on this difficult subject of coercive control in relationships. If you need to talk to a Solicitor or would like confidential advice about any matter contained in this article, please contact our Derbyshire office on 01246 551000 or email