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A wife who killed her husband by hitting him with a hammer has won her landmark appeal to overturn the conviction.
Sally Challen, 65, bludgeoned her 61-year-old husband Richard Challen to death in August 2010 after decades of controlled and humiliated by him.
She admitted killing the former car dealer at her trial at Guilford Crown Court in 2011, but denied murder on ground of diminished responsibility. However, the prosecution successfully argued Challen was a jealous wife who suspected infidelity and she was handed life in prison with a minimum of 22 years behind bars, later reduced by four years after an appeal.
Her sons, David and James, have always maintained their mother's innocence, claiming she was the true victim as a result of decades of psychological and emotional abuse at the hands of their father, who wouldn't allow her to leave the house without him.
Since Challen's conviction, the concept of coercive control has become recognised in law as a form of defence. Her lawyer is Harriet Wistrich, co-founder of Justice for Women, who blocked the release of 'black cab rapist' John Worboys, and helped release Sara Thornton, Emma Humphries and other women who killed their abusive partners.
Wistrich said new psychiatric evidence shows how coercive control provides a much clearer framework for understanding the events that took place in the Challen's Surrey home that day.
The difference between Challen's case and the other women successfully freed by Wistrich is that she was not subject to sustained physical violence, which means there are no broken bones, scars or hospital visits to use as evidence. Instead, Wistrich used numerous witness statements taken from 2010, emails from Richard to Sally, and months of prison visits and video calls with Sally - to prove Richard pushed her to the brink.
Today, the Court of Appeal announced Challen's murder conviction had been quashed, prompting cheers from several of her supporters.
The judge said: "The Court of Appeal heard that, in the opinion of a consultant forensic psychiatrist, the appellant was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing.
"This evidence was not available at the time of the trial and the court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial."
The landmark decision was made by three judges who said according to the evidence of a psychiatrist, Challen was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing.
Although Challen has been denied bail while she awaits a retrial, the decision is a huge step in the right the direction of recognising coercive behaviour as a genuine form of abuse.
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