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Sally Challen granted leave to appeal conviction for killing husband in “coercive control” case

2 March 2018

Clare Wade QC

Garden Court’s Clare Wade QC instructed by Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce.

Sally Challen was convicted in 2011 of murdering her husband. On 1 March 2018 the Court of Appeal granted her leave to appeal this conviction.

Challen’s defence lawyers argue that she suffered coercive and controlling behaviour from her husband for 30 years. At the time of her initial trial coercive control, which falls short of physical violence, was not part of our understanding of domestic violence and she did not rely on the partial defence of provocation. However, since then social, academic and legal thinking has developed and our understanding of this pattern of behaviour on the part of an abuser and its effect on the victim has changed. Garden Court’s Clare Wade QC, representing Challen, told the judges: “The understanding of domestic abuse is in constant flux.”

Handing down the decision, Lady Justice Rafferty said:

“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.”

Her son, David Challen, commented:

“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.”

This case has been reported widely including by the Guardian, BBC and the Independent.

Clare Wade QC is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Crime Team.

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