Sally Challen killed her husband Richard (the deceased) after years of being controlled and humiliated by him. He did not subject her to physical violence because his controlling behaviour meant that he did not need to.
She was only 16 when she first became involved with him. He was her only experience of relationships and she had had a sheltered childhood which involved the death of her father when she was very young. Sally and the deceased married and had two children. Over the years, she became utterly dependent on him, she could not conceive of a life without him. Coercive control isolated Sally and deprived her of the ability to make independent decisions
Examples of the way in which the deceased controlled Sally included the deceased criticising her weight, demanding that she did everything in the house (he was unwilling to make himself a cup of tea) making passive aggressive threats by withdrawing and refusing to discuss his behaviour. His behaviour involved visiting brothels, being unfaithful and doing things which were designed to humiliate her. By way of example, he had a picture taken of himself in a Ferrari surrounded by naked female models. He had the picture made into a Christmas card and sent it to mutual friends. The deceased would not allow Sally to have friends of her own or to socialise on her own. He was financially abusive spending money on himself while the money Sally earned was used to purchase necessary household items.
Sally tried to divorce the deceased after years of marriage. However, she was unable to do it because she had become so dependent on him that her own identity had been destroyed. She sought a reconciliation. This exacerbated the deceased’s controlling behaviour. The new start they were to have was all on his terms. The terms included Sally signing an agreement forbidding her from talking too much or smoking.
He would taunt her and “gas light” her make her feel, in other words, that she was going mad. Her behaviour became bizarre. She would spy on the deceased looking for evidence or confirmation of his humiliating behaviour. This increased after the proposed reconciliation. Without taking into account the background of control and compliance humiliation, it is easy to construe this sort of behaviour as jealousy.
Sally killed the deceased by hitting him with a hammer when she found out that he was still seeing other women on the eve of a new start together and after he made her go out in the rain to buy bacon and eggs to cook him.
At her trial, none of the witnesses (prosecution and defence) had anything good to say about the deceased and they confirmed the above behaviours on his part.
The defence psychiatrist diagnosed Sally as suffering from depression and supported a defence of Diminished Responsibility. The prosecution psychiatrist did not agree and said that Sally was drinking too much. There was no evidence that sally was drunk at the time of the killing. The jury were asked to draw the inference she was a jealous woman. Sally was convicted of murder.
Since her conviction, the concept of coercive control has been introduced into law. Another psychiatrist has looked at Sally’s behaviour and assessed her in the context of the effects of coercive control. She has diagnosed Sally as having a dependent personality disorder which would have led to a destructive and consuming attachment to the deceased. It is hoped that with the advances in law and analysis of coercive control, we will be able to find fresh evidence going to the issue of at least diminished responsibility if not loss of control.
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