8th July 2019

In 2010 Sally Challen killed her husband with a hammer after she suffered years of controlling and humiliating abuse. Sally was granted leave to appeal her conviction of murder earlier this year and a retrial was expected to take place on 1 July 2019. Sally pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter which was accepted and she was released after serving almost a decade in prison.

At the time of the incident coercive control was not recognised as a form of domestic violence. Sally pleaded guilty to diminished responsibility.

Coercive control became a criminal offence after the Serious Crime Act came into force in 2015. Coercive control is described as ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’. The case of Sally Challen is a landmark case in demonstrating how difficult it can be to spot the signs of coercive and controlling behaviour.

How to spot the signs?

Coercive control is sometimes referred to as gaslighting or brainwashing. A relationship can seem happy on the surface however when you look deeper there is a psychological prison whereby the victim is not allowed to socialise without their partner, they lose interest in their work, friends and personal lives. Coercive control creates a sense of fear and the inability to leave the relationship.

What can be done to help victims of coercive control?

Family lawyers can assist victims of coercive and controlling behaviour by obtaining non-molestation orders preventing the perpetrator’s controlling behaviour or by obtaining an occupation order. An occupation order is an injunction regulating who can live within the family home.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP work alongside specialist domestic abuse service, My Sisters Place in Teesside and the Angelou Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne, providing victims of domestic abuse with support and legal advice.

If you believe that you need help seeking an injunction against a coercive and controlling partner, please contact us on 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. A member of our Family team will discuss your options with you.


Blog by Jasmine Crammond, Family Paralegal