Wife whose conviction for husband’s murder was quashed back at court

Wife who spent eight years in jail for killing her ‘controlling’ husband bursts into tears as judge says she will NOT face retrial for hammer attack murder – and is now set to walk FREE

  • Georgina Challen, known as Sally, was jailed for killing husband with a hammer
  • But Challen, who says she was the victim of abuse, had her conviction quashed  
  • Today prosecutors called off a planned retrial and accepted manslaughter plea
  • Mrs Challen, who has been supported by her sons throughout, wept in the dock 

Georgina Challen, known as Sally, will not face a retrial over the murder of her husband Richard Challen, it was announced today

A wife who served eight years in jail for killing her husband with a hammer before her conviction was quashed wept in the dock of the Old Bailey today after it was dramatically announced she will not face a retrial. 

Georgina Challen, known as Sally, was jailed for life in 2011 for the murder of her car dealer husband Richard. But she has insisted the attack was the result of years of controlling and humiliating abuse he put her through.

The 65-year-old’s conviction was quashed and a new trial ordered in February after fresh evidence was put forward about her mental state at the time.

At a court hearing today, prosecutors announced they would not pursue a murder charge, meaning she will not face a retrial.

Following the decision, her son David, who has supported her throughout, tweeted: ‘As a family we are overjoyed at today’s 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 praised the work of his mother’s lawyer and the group Justice For Women towards ‘eradicating the discrimination of women in the criminal justice system’. 

Mrs Challen and her family have always insisted she was suffering the effects of her husband’s controlling behaviour at the time of the killing. She is pictured with her husband

This morning, Mrs Challen (centre left) was supported by her son James, right, who has backed her case since she was first charged

Mrs Challen’s son David (left) also accompanied her to court today for today’s hearing

Making the dramatic announcement at the Old Bailey today, prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said Mrs Challen’s manslaughter plea was accepted following a psychiatric report which concluded she was suffering an ‘adjustment disorder’.

Mrs Challen will be sentenced for manslaughter later today, but is expected to walk free having already served eight years. 

The case will be seen as a landmark for women prosecuted for lashing out at abusive partners.

It comes at the end of a long campaign by her two sons, James and David, who have supported their mother since she was first charged.

Mrs Challen attacked her husband Richard, 61, at their £1million Surrey home, bludgeoning him with a hammer more than 20 times.

At her trial in Guildford in 2011, the prosecution portrayed her as a jealous wife hell-bent on revenge and she was sentenced to life, with a minimum of 18 years.

But at her appeal, the mother-of-two’s legal team said that a 2015 change in the law that makes exerting ‘coercive or controlling behaviour’ a criminal offence should be taken into consideration. 

Tweeting after the court decision, Mrs Challen’s son said the family is ‘overjoyed’

Mrs Challen was hugged by her brother, Chris Jenney, as she arrived at the Old Bailey today

Mrs Challen is pictured with her sons David (right) and James (left) after she was freed from prison after eight years when her conviction was quashed earlier this year

Her son David previously described the history of abuse his mother had suffered in a TV interview. He said: ‘It’s important to state that my mother met my father when she was 15 and he was 22.

‘Her father died when she was five and her brothers were at university at the time. So the male influence in her life was initially from my father. And parameters were set early on with an infidelity.

‘I think 16 to 56 you’ve got a pressure cooker going of a world that’s built around him and she only knows one relationship. And she can’t diagnose it and I think a lot of people in the country are in a similar situation.’

Mrs Challen’s sons have told how their father would control their mother, treating her ‘like she was nothing’

David has told how his father was always ‘putting my mother down, and talking to her like she was nothing’.

Mrs Challen wasn’t allowed friends and was expected to devote herself to her husband. Once, when Richard ‘caught’ her giving a mutual friend a goodbye hug, he took her upstairs and raped her. 

It is said that her subservient attitude to her marriage was due in part to her upbringing. 

Her parents were born in India, and lived a typical expat lifestyle with servants. Sally was born in Walton-on-Thames in 1954, after her parents returned to England.

When she was five her father died of a heart attack and her mother did not consider it appropriate for her daughter to pursue a career. She was expected to learn secretarial skills, marry and devote herself to her husband.

She later met Richard and became ‘besotted’, it has previously been reported.

But their marriage soon became a hell for her, with the ultimate humiliation coming in 2009, when she discovered her husband had been visiting prostitutes. 

She summoned the courage to leave him and even started divorce proceedings, but six months later decided she couldn’t go through with it and went back to him. 

On the day of the killing, her husband decided he wanted bacon and egg for his breakfast and sent her out in the rain to buy some.

On her return, she grew suspicious that he’d invented the errand to get her out of the house so he could call one of his girlfriends. A check of phone records confirmed her suspicions.

Although Sally maintains she does not recall her actions, this is when she picked up the hammer and struck him over the head.

What is ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ in the eyes of the law?

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship in December 2015.

An offence is committed by repeatedly or continuously engaging in behaviour towards another person that is ‘controlling or coercive’.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation or stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.

Women’s Aid describes it as behaviour designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: ‘Coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse. Perpetrators will usually start abusing their victim by limiting her personal freedoms, monitoring her every move, & stripping away her control of her life; physical violence often comes later.’

According to the Office of National Statistics In the year ending December 2016, there were a total of five cautions and 155 defendants prosecuted for coercive and controlling behaviour in England and Wales.

The majority of defendants prosecuted for coercive and controlling behaviour were male (97%).

 

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