Legal landmark as mother, 65, who killed husband with hammer wins appeal ...

Sally Challen with her husband Richard. Sally Challen, who bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer in August 2010, was given the go ahead to challenge her murder conviction

Sally Challen with her husband Richard. Sally Challen, who bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer in August 2010, was given the go ahead to challenge her murder conviction

A mother who bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer after years of being abused had her murder conviction quashed today.

Sally Challen's court victory was described as a 'watershed moment for victims of domestic violence'.

Cheers erupted from family, friends and supporters in the public gallery of Court 4 at London's Royal Courts of Justice as Mrs Challen's conviction was quashed. 

It is the first time pleas of being 'coercively controlled' have been raised in appealing a murder conviction.

Appearing via videolink from HMP Bronzefield in Surrey, Mrs Challen, 65, who has served eight years in custody, wept and hugged a prison officer.

But hopes that she would be released immediately were dashed when it was ruled the former Police Federation worker will face a murder retrial. 

A new jury will hear 'fresh evidence' which has emerged on Mrs Challen's mental state at the time of the killing in 2010. 

The case has been cited as a turning point in the quest for justice for victims of domestic abuse and has been supported by charities including Justice For Women.

It centres on the years of 'coercive and controlling behaviour' that Mrs Challen allegedly suffered at the hands of Richard Challen, her husband of 31 years.

The couple met when she was 15 and he was 22, but their relationship was said to have been marred by Mr Challen's numerous affairs, intimidation and 'gaslighting' – a term used to describe making a partner feel as though they are going mad.

This specific type of abuse rose to public consciousness in 2016 when it featured in a storyline on The Archers, which may have partly inspired Mrs Challen to recognise herself as a victim of the behaviour, the court heard earlier.

Sally Challen, 61, appears via video link to appeal against her 18 year sentence for murdering her husband in 2010 at the Court of Appeal today

Sally Challen, 61, appears via video link to appeal against her 18 year sentence for murdering her husband in 2010 at the Court of Appeal today

Richard Challen with couple's son David as a child, centre, and his brother James

Richard Challen with couple's son David as a child, centre, and his brother James

Coercive and controlling behaviour became a criminal offence in 2015 – four years after she was convicted of murder. 

Her lawyers argued that had its impact been widely known at the time of the trial, the jury may have convicted Mrs Challen of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

They claimed that the harm caused as a result of coercive control, over years in which her husband controlled her finances, visited prostitutes and made her perform all household chores, was not sufficiently appreciated by psychiatrists at the time of the trial.

Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, 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.'

Mrs Challen's barrister, Clare Wade QC, said her client's personality disorder symptoms were suppressed by the coercive control she suffered at the hands of her husband.

'She had a prior existing condition which meant that she was susceptible to coercive control and these symptoms did not emerge properly until the crisis happened, with which the trial was concerned.'

Challen, right, 65, was jailed for 22 years for murdering her husband Richard, left, 61, with a hammer in August 2010 but her sons David, 31, and James, 35, claim she was the victim of decades of abuse including rape and psychological torment by their father

Challen, right, 65, was jailed for 22 years for murdering her husband Richard, left, 61, with a hammer in August 2010 but her sons David, 31, and James, 35, claim she was the victim of decades of abuse including rape and psychological torment by their father

Miss Wade said Mrs Challen's trial in 2011 had focused on infidelity rather than other relevant evidence, adding: 'What they did was they then adduced only evidence that went back to 2004. 

'The case was condensed down to something which in truth if all of her instructions and accounts were taken into account, was not the case.'

Lady Justice Hallett asked Miss Wade: 'To get this straight in my mind, would a good working title be 'psychological battered women syndrome'?' Miss Wade said: 'Yes, absolutely.

The ruling followed evidence from consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Gwen Adshead, who interviewed Mrs Challen five years after the attack.

She said that in her opinion, Mrs Challen was suffering from a borderline personality disorder at the time of the killing, exacerbated by the abuse she was suffering. 

Sally Challen with her husband Richard on their wedding day. The couple's sons said their mother was subjected to years of controlling behaviour

Sally Challen with her husband Richard on their day. The couple's sons said their mother was subjected to years of controlling behaviour

Challen, pictured with one of her sons as a child, should have been afforded more legal protection at her original trial, according toher family

Challen, pictured with one of her sons as a child, should have been afforded more legal protection at her original trial, according toher family

Speaking after the appeal judges' ruling, Mrs Challen's son David, 31, who has vigorously campaigned for justice for his mother, said: 'This is a watershed moment for domestic violence in recognising coercive control.

'We don't want her to serve any more time in prison. She is not a murderer today.

'That is the most amazing thing that has been recognised.

'We want her to be free to live a good life and live an independent life that she has not lived since she was 15.'

Sally Challen, pictured, has had her murder conviction overturned after a landmark appeal that saw her argue she was driven to kill her husband due to decades of psychological abuse

Sally Challen, pictured, has had her murder conviction overturned after a landmark appeal that saw her argue she was driven to kill her husband due to decades of psychological abuse

Her solicitor Harriet Wistrich, who specialises in working with women who have been victims of abuse, said she spoke to Mrs Challen after the verdict.

'She was very tearful but she is well supported where she is. It's not all sunk in yet,' she said.

She added that her legal team will apply for bail and try to avoid a retrial by offering a guilty plea to the charge of voluntary manslaughter.

The Court of Appeal earlier heard from an expert in coercive and controlling behaviour. 

Professor Evan Stark said it could produce 'hostage-like conditions of entrapment... similar to that produced in prisoners of war'.

He added: 'It achieves compliance essentially by making the victims afraid and... by depriving them of rights, resources and liberties without which they cannot effectively defend themselves, escape, refuse demands or resist.'

Claire Mawer, from Justice For Women, said: 'I hope the interest in this case will provide a platform for a greater understanding of the appalling struggle that so many women going through the criminal justice system face.'  

How women's rights lawyer who fought to keep black cab rapist John Worboys in prison could secure landmark legal victor 

Sally Challen's historic appeal is being led by a lawyer who is no stranger to major legal battles.

Harriet Wistrich is arguing the 65-year-old should have been convicted of manslaughter over the killing of her husband following decades of emotional and physical abuse.

The 58-year-old has constantly championed women's rights and last year represented victims of black cab rapist John Worboys in a successful effort to prevent his release by the Parole Board after just eight years in prison.

Women's rights lawyer Harriet Wistrich, pictured, who is representing Challen at the Court of Appeal, said the case was far from certain but that the new law is 'like fresh evidence'

Women's rights lawyer Harriet Wistrich, pictured, who is representing Challen at the Court of Appeal, said the case was far from certain but that the new law is 'like fresh evidence'

She has spent 25 years as a lawyer and most recently worked for Birnberg Peirce & Partners, working on abuse cases.

Today she will tell Court of Appeal judges Challen would have the legal defence of coercive control if tried today after it was brought into law in 2015, four years after her trial.

The legislation covers abuse where someone with a personal connection to a victim threatens, isolates, intimidates and subjects them to behaviour that makes them dependent, which Challen's sons claim their father was guilty of for 40 years.

They say their mother snapped after living in a 'pressure cooker' after being raped and psychologically abused for so long.

Challen wrote to Ms Wistrich for help in 2012 and she subsequently found her defence did not include the decades of abuse Challen suffered. 

Speaking to the Telegraph, Ms Wistrich said the appeal was 'important in terms of violence against women'.

She said:  'In a sense it's like fresh evidence. The fact a law has been passed illustrates an advancement in our understanding of the dynamics of an abusive relationship.'

Miss Wistrich added: 'The number of people killed in terrorist attacks, such as Manchester, are much lower than the number of women killed every year as a result of domestic terrorism. There should be a massive outcry.' 

She founded Justice for Women with partner Julie Bindel in 1991 and since then the organisation has helped quash convictions of more than a dozen women who were convicted of murdering abusive partners.

Ms Wistrich added Challen's case was 'a very hard argument' but that a the huge amount of work carried out by the legal team and a 'public mood swing' meant the judges should seriously consider it.

'He drove her to the edge': Devoted sons, 31 and 35, who BACKED their mother's appeal against a murder conviction for killing their father reveal the horrific abuse she suffered at his hands 

By Barbara Davies for the Daily Mail

Making sense of their childhood years has been a life's work for Sally Challen's sons. For while they have never believed their father Richard deserved to die, they do understand why their mother was driven to kill him.

The 65-year-old mother-of-two saw her conviction for murdering her husband of 31 years by hitting him 20 times with a hammer quashed at the Royal Courts of Justice today.

She now faces a retrial after a panel of judges at the Court of Appeal ruled she was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the 2010 attack. She has already served eight years in a Surrey prison.

Behind today's watershed moment is a tale of extraordinary filial love and a heroic fight for justice by the two level-headed young sons who emerged from the Challens' ill-fated marriage. 

Speaking outside court, Mrs Challen's son David, 31, who has campaigned for her freedom for years alongside brother James, 35, said the result gave his mother a 'shot at the freedom she has never had since she was 15', the age when she met her future husband

David Challen speaking today

Speaking outside court, Mrs Challen's son David, 31, who has campaigned for her freedom for years alongside brother James, 35, said the result gave his mother a 'shot at the freedom she has never had since she was

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