Woman who killed husband suffered ‘no abnormality of mind’

A woman who killed her husband with a hammer was not suffering from an “abnormality of mind” at the time, senior judges have heard.

Georgina Challen, known as Sally, says she killed 61-year-old Richard Challen in August 2010 after 40 years of being controlled and humiliated by him.

Challen, who turned 65 on Wednesday, is challenging her murder conviction at the Court of Appeal in London.

Her lawyers argue that, had the defence of coercive control – which passed into law in 2015 – been available at the time of her trial, she would not have been found guilty of murder

But lawyers for the Crown contend that the jury at her trial were provided with evidence about her state of mind and were able to understand the impact of her husband’s behaviour upon her.

Caroline Carberry QC told the court in written submissions: “The introduction into the legal lexicon in 2015, four years post conviction, of the phrase ‘controlling and coercive behaviour’ was the popularisation of a new phrase to describe an old and well understood problem.

“It is not one upon which juries require expert guidance.”

Ms Carberry said there was “ample evidence” to demonstrate that Challen was able to think in a “logical and coherent way” before, during and after the killing.

She said Challen had armed herself with the hammer, made sure her husband died from the blows she struck, put a cushion under his head and bought wine and cigarettes before typing a note which she placed on the body.

She added: “This evidence is utterly inconsistent with the contention that her responsibility was substantially impaired.

“A clear and unimpeachable conclusion was reached by the jury that the appellant was not suffering from an abnormality of mind which substantially impaired her responsibility for the killing.”

Ms Carberry said Mr Challen’s alleged behaviour was “without doubt unacceptable”, but that the court does not need to decide whether it amounted in law to coercive and controlling behaviour.

Georgina Challen appeal
Richard Challen was a former car dealer (Surrey Police/PA)

The court also heard evidence from psychiatrist Dr Paul Gilluley, the Crown’s forensic expert during the trial, who said he remained of the opinion that Challen was not suffering from any mental disorder at the time of the killing.

But another forensic psychiatrist, Dr Gwen Adshead, who assessed Challen after her conviction following a psychotic episode, said she was suffering from a severe clinical mood disorder, probably bipolar affective disorder.

Giving evidence before Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, Dr Adshead said: “It is very common for people with borderline personality disorder to become victims of domestic violence because they are often quite poor at self-protection and they may be intensely dependent on people to whom they are attached.”

Challen observed proceedings over a video link from HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey.

Her case is supported by the campaign group Justice for Women.

At her 2011 trial at Guildford Crown Court, Challen, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted killing the former car dealer but denied murder, claiming diminished responsibility.

The prosecution case was that it was the action of a jealous woman who suspected infidelity.

She was jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years, later reduced on appeal by four years.

The hearing is due to continue on Thursday.

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