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Landmark appeal - murder conviction quashed

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When Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her husband in 2011, the courts did not recognise ‘coercive control’ and the impact it could have an individual’s mental health and state of mind. Four years later when physiological manipulation was finally accepted as a form of domestic abuse, new laws were passed criminalising controlling and coercive behaviour.

What is Coercive control?

The government defines ‘coercive control’ as being the type of behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

Coercive or controlling behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of incidents that occur over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.

During a two-day appeal at the end of February, the Court of Appeal heard that Sally Challen was in fact a victim of ‘coercive control’ and that during her trial, the partial defence of diminished responsibility, was not put as fully as it could have been.  Lawyers were therefore asking to reduce her murder conviction to one of manslaughter.  At the end of the two days, three judges found that evidence that was not available at the time of her trial in 2011 undermined the safety of her conviction and therefore quashed the murder conviction.  They decided not to substitute a manslaughter conviction as requested but instead ordered a re-trial on the charge of murder.

Here at Emery Johnson Astills, we have over 30 years’ experience in dealing with domestic related offences. We are alert to potential changes in legislation and precedents set by the higher courts and are adept at dealing with issues no matter the stage it is at.  For further information and advice in relation to these offences and criminal appeal matters, including the availability of legal aid funding for such cases, please contact the criminal defence team in Leicester on 0116 255 4855 or in Loughborough on 01509 610 312.