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Sally Challen Released from Prison

In February of this year, Sally Challen was granted leave to appeal her life sentence for the murder of her husband Richard Challen. Leave was granted on the basis of ‘new evidence’, namely that Sally had been the victim of controlling and coercive behaviour, which in turn shed relevant light on her mental state at the time of the killing. At the time of the offence, Controlling and Coercive Behaviour was not recognised in law as a crime and was only introduced in 2015.

On the 28th February 2019 the appeal was heard, her conviction was quashed and a retrial was ordered. The trial was due to start on 1st July and Sally faced a charge of murder. Sally had pleaded not guilty to the allegation of murder but confirmed that she accepted the allegation of manslaughter.

However, at a hearing on Friday 7th June 2019, the prosecution confirmed that they accepted Sally’s plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Taking into account the abuse she had suffered throughout her marriage and the evidence that Sally was suffering from an adjustment disorder at the time of the offence, the CPS stated that the evidence provided of Sally’s state of mind was a:

"Significant change from expert evidence previously available and has led us to conclude there is no longer sufficient evidence to proceed on a charge of murder."

Sally was sentenced on 7th June by Mr Justice Edis who stated:

“Allowing full credit of one-third because it has always been your case that you killed him by reasons of diminished responsibility, that means you have already served an equivalent sentence and are therefore entitled by law to be released at once.”

Sally was free to leave Court, having already served the sentence imposed of 9 years and 4 months whilst in custody following her conviction for Richard’s murder in 2011.

Diminished Responsibility – Section 52 Coroners and Justice Act 2009

Diminished responsibility is a partial defence to murder and if successful would reduce the offence to manslaughter. It is for the defence to establish the defence is available and the burden of proof is on the balance of probabilities. In order to establish diminished responsibility all four of the following elements must be proved:

  1. Whether the defendant was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning

  2. If so, whether it had arisen from a recognised medical condition

  3. If so, whether it had substantially impaired their ability either to understand the nature of their conduct or to form a rational judgment or to exercise self-control (or any combination)

  4. If so, whether it provided an explanation for their conduct

In the case of Ms Challen, the above test was found to have been satisfied for the following reasons:

  1. Expert evidence was provided to show that she had an ‘abnormality of mental functioning’;

  2. This ‘abnormality’ arose from the recognised medical condition of ‘adjustment disorder’. (Recognised medical conditions are those defined in the World Health Organisations International Classification of Diseases or the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders);

  3. The prolonged emotional abuse which Challen suffered throughout her marriage has been assessed through expert evidence to have substantially impaired her understanding of her conduct, hindered her ability to form a rational judgement or exercise self-control;

  4. It was assessed that this understanding of Sally’s mental state at the time of the offence provided an explanation for her conduct.

Our Business Crime and Regulatory team have extensive experience in providing advice and guidance on the offences outlined above. If you require advice please feel free to get in touch with a member of our team on 0345 872 6666.

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