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Family’s fight for Surrey killer mum puts new light on coercive control

Two sons who are fighting to free their mum after she killed her husband and their father in a brutal hammer attack has highlights coercive control behaviour.

Sally Challen, was subjected to years of abuse from her husband, Richard, and ultimately killed him over 8 years ago. An update in the law has seen a chink of light that may lead her to be freed.

Of course, there are those who will see such extreme violence and the killing of a human being as a black and white matter, but with her grown up sons backing her bid for freedom it does beg the question of what can drive a woman, with no history of violence, to carry out such a horrific attack.

The assault was a pre-meditated, but her sons describe a woman frequently humiliated and ruled in a tyrannical manner by a husband who had cheated on her, used prostitutes and treated her with utter contempt.

She was convicted and jailed for life, but now her legal team intends to use a law passed in 2015 which recognises coercive control as a form of domestic abuse to try and gain her freedom.

The argument from her legal team is that a strong history of psychological abuse provides a sound defence of provocation.

The story of this case goes back to August 2010 when the couple had separated and Sally went to visit her husband in the Claygate home they had shared until shortly beforehand. The catalyst for the separation being that she had discovered he had been visiting prostitutes.

Her sons had advised their mother to keep away from their father, but she had hoped to save the marriage.

However, matters deteriorated when she found out that he had been liaising with another woman when checking his phone.

Her husband asked for food, but Sally returned with a hammer in her handbag and launched the assault.

In March last year, Sally Challen won leave to appeal against her conviction. Her solicitor believes this is the first-time coercive control has been used as a defence in a murder appeal. She is hoping the appeal court may reduce the conviction to manslaughter or even order a retrial.

It is a case, which could have wide-ranging ramifications for many people. We eagerly await the outcome.

If you need any legal advice regarding coercive behaviour or other similar matters, do not hesitate to contact our team, we’re here to help.