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Provocation and coercive control: the Challen case

In the week that Sally Challen told her own story for the first time, Jessica Maguire explores the perception of coercive control in the current justice system

17 September 2019

Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her husband in 2011 after striking him numerous times with a hammer. The prosecution’s case was that Mrs Challen had become increasingly obsessed with her husband’s lifestyle, experiencing feelings of jealousy, anger and resentment, but not to the extent of causing mental illness or an abnormality of mind.

The defence case was that Mrs Challen was suffering from a depressive disorder with persistent depressive symptoms in the weeks before killing her husband. They claimed she had suffered a depressive episode of moderate severity, which amounted to an abnormality of mind. Evidence during the trial from both family and friends described Mrs Challen as being severely controlled by her husband.

Mrs Challen was convicted by a jury of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment of a minimum of 22 years, later reduced to 18 years.

At the time of Mrs Challen’s trial, controlling and coercive behaviour was not a crim...

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