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UK domestic violence charities and MPs sign up to support David and James’ Challen’s campaign for justice for their mum Sally

The Court of Appeal to hear a landmark murder appeal in case where a woman was driven to kill in response to coercive and controlling behaviour: 27 and 28 February 2019

On 27 February 2019, when the court of appeal will hear arguments setting out the grounds for appealing her murder conviction, Sally Challen will turn 65. She hopes this will be the last birthday she spends in prison after serving nearly nine years of a life sentence imposed for the murder of her husband Richard.  Clare Wade QC, will argue in her appeal against conviction, that Sally was subjected to forty years of coercive and controlling behavior which amounted to both the underlying circumstances and ultimate trigger that led her to kill Richard who she had first met when aged only 15 years.  Coercive control was only passed into law in 2015 and was not widely understood as a form of domestic violence at the time of Sally’s trial for murder in 2011. 
In a statement released today by the campaign group Justice for Women, David and James Challen set out the reasons why they are pinning all their hopes on this final appeal against her murder conviction. They say,
“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.”
All the main UK domestic violence charities, including Women’s Aid and Refuge, as well as prominent MPs who have worked to promote better understanding of domestic violence and coercive and controlling behavior, have co-signed the statement supporting the appeal.  If successful, the appeal could result in Sally’s murder conviction being overturned and manslaughter substituted in its place.  Hundreds of supporters are expected to join David and his family in a protest of support outside the Royal Courts of Justice at 9.30 on 27 February.

Sally Challen’s solicitor, Harriet Wistrich, stated, “Domestic violence is often visualized in the form of a woman with a black eye or broken arm.  The concept of coercive and controlling behavior provides a much more comprehensive picture of the combined methods of coercion and control, that can lead a victim to become so subject to the bullying of another, that her liberty is effectively removed.  We are not arguing in this case that coercive control would provide a complete defence to murder, but the circumstances of a lifelong marriage amount to a form of provocation, which should reduce a murder conviction to manslaughter.


1. Statement from James and David Challen 
2. Current Press

3. Justice for Women, Centre for Women's Justice and DeMontfort University are holding a joint event on 20th Feb, 'Coercive Control and Criminal Justice', with Evan Stark, Harriet Wistrich and David Challen

4. For further comment please contact Nic on 0770 451 6836


25 years on: what has changed for women who kill their violent partners?

Wednesday, 25th October 2017, Howard Kennedy LLP, 1 London Bridge, SE1 9BG

25 years ago Justice for Women campaigned with others, to free Sara Thornton, Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Amelia Rossiter, three women had been convicted of murder whilst resisting male violence. All three successfully appealed their murder convictions and their cases resulted in changes to the law on provocation and a greater awareness of domestic violence. Since then, Justice for Women have supported many more significant cases at the Court of Appeal including that of Emma Humphreys and most recently Stacey Hyde.

Despite earlier cases contributing to changes in the law, including recognition of the cumulative provocation of domestic violence, and despite a reform of the law in 2009, with the defence of ‘loss of control’ replacing that of ‘provocation’, women who have fought back out of fear and desperation, are still being unjustly convicted of the murder of their abusers. 

Justice for Women are launching a new campaign at a public meeting on 25 October, to be chaired and introduced by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. The public meeting with provide an opportunity to understand and support the campaigns to free Sally Challen, Farieissia Martin and Emma-Jayne Magson. Speakers will include:

Family members and lawyers for the three new cases 

Jess Phillips - Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley

Harriet Wistrich - Justice for Women co-founder and lawyer 

Stacey Hyde - who was convicted of the murder, aged 17, and with the help of Justice for Women acquitted at retrial.  

Dr Hannana Siddiqui - former Southall Black Sisters campaigner and award winning freelance policy & research consultant

Chaired by Helena Kennedy QC

With an introduction by Mark Stephens CBE, solicitor at Howard Kennedy.

We will also be screening extracts from two new short films about campaigning for justice for women and about Stacey Hyde's campaign. Speeches and screening 6pm-8pm, followed by drinks and snacks.

More about the cases:

Farieissia Martin

In 2014 Farieissia’s violent partner, Kyle, attacked her and attempted to strangle her. In order to defend herself and in fear of her life, Farieissia reached for anything to help stop him. Kyle died as a result of a single stab wound to the heart. At the age of just 22, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life with a minimum tariff of 13 years and separated from her two young children. During the trial the full history of serious domestic violence was not explored and no mental health assessment was undertaken despite significant evidence of depression and trauma. These two issues are being explored further with a view to lodging grounds of appeal in the near future.

Sally Challen

Sally was convicted the murder of her husband, Richard Challen, in June 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 22 years reduced to 18 on appeal.  She was only 15 when she first met Richard and 56 at the time of the offence that took place after years of extreme control and humiliation. He would not allow her to have her own friends and expected her to service him in all ways. He used ‘gas lighting’ a form of psychological manipulation, which leads the victim to doubt her own sanity.  In January 2017, she lodged grounds of appeal against conviction relying on fresh evidence of ‘coercive control’, a relatively new concept only introduced into English law in 2015. Additional psychiatric evidence also combines to support the partial defences of diminished responsibility and provocation.

Emma-Jayne Magson

23-year old Emma had recently left a relationship with an abusive man who had hospitalized her when she met and fell in love with James. Over the months they were together James became increasingly controlling, jealous and physically aggressive. In March 2016, after a night out the couple argued and James became violent, kicking and pushing her and finally putting his hands around her throat. In a moment of terror, Emma reached into the sink behind her and lashed out, stabbing him once. At her trial the court were not informed of the history of abuse she had suffered or that which she had witnessed growing up, nor was her mental health fully explored. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, to serve a minimum of 17 years. Emma has a two-year old daughter.

To attend the event, please RSVP to justiceforwomencampaigns@gmail.com

For further information and interviews contact: 

Justice for Women: 07527 465 099 or 07704 516 836

Follow us on Twitter: @justice4women