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In August 2010, Georgina ‘Sally’ Challen struck her husband, Richard Challen, on the head more than 20 times after enduring over 30 years of humiliation and psychological abuse.
The next day, following the attack, Sally drove to the cliffs at Beachy Head and stood on the edge. It took a chaplain two hours to encourage her to come away from the dangerous edge and not to take her own life.
Sally met Richard Challen when she was 15 years old and he was 22 years old. Various members of Sally’s family talk about how he had her under his control from the beginning of their relationship.
Throughout their relationship, Sally was mentally and psychologically tortured but it was only after her arrest that Sally disclosed how Richard had anally raped her as a punishment for being kissed by one of his friends.
Richards behaviour during their relationship was not to be contested by Sally. He had numerous affairs and involved constant humiliation and degradation of her, in her home and in front of her family and friends. Sally suffered emotional and psychological abuse on a daily basis, including being spoken to in a humiliating manner, being commented on her weight and appearance and him dictating her every move. Sally gradually lost all self-esteem and confidence.
Sally also discovered that Richard was attending at a brothel near her place of work. She saw a report about how the police had raided the establishment, finding women who had been trafficked in there.
Sally is the mother to two sons, who are now campaigning for her sentence to be reviewed. Her youngest son, David, has spoken about how his father had “no moral compass” and he describes how his father would humiliate Sally in front of family and friends. His actions ensured her to be unable to access support from other sources, causing her to be isolated and vulnerable to further psychological abuse and harm.
In 2011, Guildford Crown Court held Sally’s trial where she admitted killing her husband but denied murder, under diminished responsibility. Sally was sentenced to 22 years, which was later downgraded to 18 years on appeal.
On Thursday, Clare Wade QC, Sally’s barrister, told the court that the issue of coercive control:
“…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: “Our understanding of coercive control has developed since the appellant trial” and that the theory of coercive control “shifts the emphasis away from physical harm”.
There were many incidents that Sally discussed during her police interview in 2010, but these were not used evidentially because they were not deemed to be relevant.
The Royal Courts of Justice have now given permission was granted for Sally to appeal against her murder conviction. The Judge has granted for a retrial to take place.
Coercive control became established law in 2015 and now should anyone experience methods of control and manipulation through emotional and psychological abuse, this can now be investigated by the Police.