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Woman given go-ahead to challenge conviction over husband’s hammer murder

Sally Challen claims she was the victim of her husband’s coercive and controlling behaviour.

A woman who bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer has won the go-ahead to challenge her murder conviction.

Georgina Challen, known as Sally, says she killed 61-year-old Richard Challen in August 2010 after years of being controlled and humiliated by him.

Justice for Women and lawyers for 64-year-old Challen say new psychiatric evidence shows how “coercive control” provides a better framework for understanding her conduct.

Georgina Challen’s son David with members of Justice for Women (Yui Mok/PA)

At her 2011 trial at Guildford Crown Court, Challen, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted killing the former car dealer but denied murder, claiming diminished responsibility.

The prosecution case was that it was the action of a jealous woman who suspected infidelity.

She was jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years, later reduced on appeal by four years.

Georgina Challen appeal

On Thursday, after the Court of Appeal  granted her leave to appeal, Challen’s son David said: “I’m overcome, overjoyed, most of all thankful.

“Thankful we are being allowed the opportunity to explore this issue further, to explore the issues that might have been overlooked at or not present during the first trial.

“There are not many words I can say, but I am optimistic.

“I think a lot of good can come from this for my mother and for anyone else suffering from mental domestic abuse in reference to coercive control.”

His mother’s solicitor, Harriet Wistrich, said David had done an “excellent job” raising awareness of the case and the issue of coercive control.

Georgina Challen appeal

Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Mr Justice Stuart-Smith and Mrs Justice Carr, said: “It should be plainly understood that the application made today is but one step in what, it is hoped by counsel, those who instruct her and many others concerned in this case, will be a full detailed exploration of the position, based on scholarship, learning and clinical expertise, which should prevail now.

“A jury – it is argued – should, with the benefit of that learning, be enabled to reach a clear settled conclusion on the basis of an understanding which, it is said, was not available to the jury in 2011.

“We scrupulously avoid expressing any view on any outcome but we are persuaded that leave to appeal should be granted.”

Challen’s counsel, Clare Wade QC, told the judges that the understanding of domestic abuse was in constant development.

“We are saying that there was a very serious dynamic occurring throughout the course of the marriage which is absolutely crucial to the understanding of the forensic situation at the time of the trial.”

With some understanding of coercive control, Challen’s behaviour was attributable in part to how her husband treated her during the marriage and at the end, when she reached “this catastrophic state”.

The jury, added counsel, only had “half of the picture”.

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