Centre for Women’s Justice are in full support of Sally Challen's appeal. James and David’s statement:
SALLY CHALLEN APPEAL STATEMENT – James and David Challen
In August 2010, our mother Sally Challen, 56 killed our father Richard Challen, 61 at the family home. Afterwards, our mother drove to Beachy Head, parked up and walked to the cliffs to end her life. It took a suicide prevention team hours to talk her down, after which she was arrested for murder.
During her trial, the jury heard our mother being painted as a person ‘consumed by jealousy’, who having suspected our father of cheating on her; counted his viagra pills and took his life because she found herself eaten up with jealously at his friendships with other women. Our mother was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment, reduced by four years on appeal.
As sons of both Richard and Sally we have sought to bring to light a true understanding ofthe events that lead up to our father’s death. Our mother’s actions were not led by theemotions of jealously nor rage but stemmed from the life long campaign of fear and psychological abuse waged by our father through his coercive controlling behaviour.
Coercive control is an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape, and regulating their everyday behaviour.
In 2015, coercive control became an offence in UK law and more recently the draft of the Domestic Abuse Bill promises to recognise coercive control in the definition of domestic abuse, citing:
‘Abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, economic and emotional forms of abuse.’ 1.1 Introducing a new statutory definition of domestic abuse
In March 2018 our mother was granted leave to appeal her conviction on the grounds of fresh evidence from experts showing how coercive control provides a better framework forunderstanding Sally’s ultimate response in the context of a history of provocation.
Our mother was only 15 when she met our father, 21. At first he was charming but gradually the abuse began. He bullied and humiliated her, isolated her from her friends and family, controlled who she could socialise with, controlled her money, restricted her movementand created a culture of fear and dependency. Our father fed into our mother’s mind theabuse she was suffering over 40 years was normal. Whilst he forced strict restrictions on her behaviour, he himself, would have numerous affairs and visit brothels. If she challenged him, he would gaslight her, make her question her sanity and furthermore seek to control us as sons to believe our mother was mad.
Attempts were made by our mother to leave the marriage however having suffered economic abuse and threats by our father that she would get nothing in a divorce she was made too dependent to leave. She eventually separated from our father, however a year into this separation left her too emotionally weak and dependent to survive without him. She felt she could not live apart from him such was his control over her since a teenager, but he would only accept her back on the condition of signing a post nuptial agreement he drew up that denied her rights to the martial home, forbade her from interrupting him or speaking to strangers.
Accounts of our father’s abusive behaviour throughout their 30-year marriage have been documented by neighbours, friends and family – including from our father’s family and hisoldest friend all of which who are supporting Sally’s appeal. In addition, we have expert testimony from the world’s leading authority on coercive control, Professor Evan Starkwhose work was directly referenced in the creation of the 2015 coercive control offence in UK law. Stark’s expert report will help to provide an understanding to how our father’s coercive and controlling behaviour provides an explanation for our mother’s actions inkilling her husband.
Our mother’s appeal is a landmark case, the first of its kind to use coercive control as a part of a defence to murder. This appeal crucially provides an opportunity to recognise the life- long abuse Sally suffered and, in the hope of understanding the cause of her actions, provides an understanding of how she was driven to take the life of our father, Richard.
James and David Challen
Justice for Women
Centre for Women’s Justice
Southall Black Sisters
Welsh Women’s Aid
Caroline Lucas MP
Carolyn Harris MP
Jess Phillips MP
Angela Smith MP
Stella Creasy MP
Baroness (Ruth) Lister of Burtersett
Leanne Wood AM
Scottish Women’s Aid
Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA)