She killed her husband. Now she’s been freed in a landmark case
A British woman who served almost 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband with a hammer will not face a retrial, a judge has ruled, after her murder conviction was quashed in February.
Georgina Challen, who goes by Sally, said she killed her husband, Richard, in August 2010 after he subjected her to years of emotional abuse. The following year, Challen, 65, was convicted of his murder and jailed for life.
In February, London’s Court of Appeal quashed her conviction and ordered a new trial, the Press Association reported, citing new information about Challen’s psychiatric state when she killed her husband.
Challen, who pleaded not guilty to the murder charge but admitted manslaughter, was subsequently released on bail ahead of a second trial scheduled to begin on July 1.
At a hearing at London’s Old Bailey Friday, Judge Andrew Edis accepted her plea of manslaughter, sparing her a second murder trial, the Press Assocation reported. Prosecutor Caroline Carberry said the decision was based on a psychiatric report that found Challen was suffering from an “adjustment disorder” at the time of her husband’s death.
She will be sentenced for manslaughter later Friday.
Challen’s heavily publicized case drew attention to coercive control as a form of domestic abuse. It became a criminal offense in England and Wales in 2015, and earlier this year in Scotland.
Teresa Parker, head of communication for the UK charity Women’s Aid, told CNN that her case “displays the long-term impact that coercive control has on survivors and the long-term trauma it can cause. It underpins the vast majority of domestic abuse and the term helps to explain the dynamics of power and control within abusive relationships.”
According to the campaign group Justice for Women, which supported her appeal, Challen said her husband bullied, humiliated and repeatedly cheated on her, forbidding her from socializing without him. He also controlled the couple’s finances.
On August 14, 2010, Challen killed him with a hammer in home in Surrey, southern England, planning to kill herself afterward by jumping from the Beachy Head cliffs.
After her murder conviction, her sons, David and James Challen and lawyer Harriet Wistrich, who co-founded Justice for Women, launched an appeal for her release, arguing that the abuse she withstood “was not properly recognized” in her initial trial.
David wrote on Twitter Friday, “As a family we are overjoyed at todays verdict and that it has brought an end to the suffering we have endured together for the past 9 years.”
“Our story has become the landmark case society needs to recognise the true severity of coercive control,” he said.
Teresa Parker called the judge’s ruling “fantastic news,” adding, “We now need everyone working in the criminal justice system to receive regular, up-to-date training on what coercive control is and how to use the legislation.”