She killed her husband, but no one challenged his abusive behaviour

Sunday June 16 2019

JUSTICE

There are many women who are victims of abuse and violence in prison today serving life sentences. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GERRY LOUGHRAN
By GERRY LOUGHRAN
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Sally Challen, aged 61, bludgeoned her husband, Richard, 65, to death with a hammer in 2010 and was jailed for life on a charge of murder.

At her trial, she was portrayed by the prosecution as a controlling and vengeful wife, and Judge Christopher Critchlow said she had been “eaten up with jealousy” over her husband’s friendships with other women.

What the court did not do, according to her son David, was examine Richard Challen’s behaviour.

Writing in The Observer newspaper last Sunday, David Challen said his mother was only 15 when she met his father, who was 21. “At first he was charming but gradually the abuse began,” David explained.

“He bullied and humiliated her, isolated her from her friends and family, controlled who she could socialise with, controlled her money, restricted her movements and created a culture of fear and dependency.”

MENTAL STRAIN

David wrote that “Our father fed into our mother’s mind that the abuse she was suffering over 40 years was normal”.

In the wake of the murder conviction, Mrs Challen’s lawyers appealed. The conviction was quashed and a new trial was ordered.

However, the Crown accepted her plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and having served due time, she was released.

In his newspaper article, David Challen condemned judicial assumptions that accused women could not be suffering from mental strain because they appeared to be functioning to a high standard.

He gave the example of Farieissia Martin, convicted of the murder of Kyle Farrell and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

JUSTICE

Ms Martin stabbed Farrell to death when he tried to strangle her. However, she had not complained of his continuing violence because she was frightened the social services would take away her two small children.

The group Justice for Women is campaigning for the case to go to appeal.

Upon being set free two weeks ago, Mrs Challen declared, “Many other women who are victims of abuse and violence are in prison today serving life sentences and I know this because I have met them.

"They have suffered miscarriages of justice and should be serving sentences of manslaughter, not murder.”

* * *

Courtney Hughes, aged 21, became one of the youngest recipients of a Queen’s Birthday Honour last week when she was awarded the British Empire Medal “for services to older and vulnerable people”.

It all started back when she was just 13. Courtney visited her great-grandmother in hospital on Christmas Day and was upset to observe that many patients, especially older ones, had no visitors and no presents.

This prompted her to set up a charity, Secret Santa, which since then, Courtney says, has given out “nearly 50,000 wrapped gifts, van loads of presents and essential items for the homeless”.

She said, “We have fitted out houses for women coming out of domestic violence. We’ve also worked with a children’s hospital and a home for the elderly, laying on tea parties. It’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”

* * *

They tried it on rabbits and it worked, so doctors are now planning to sew patches onto human hearts to repair damage caused by heart failure.

A patch the size of a human thumb will be grown in a laboratory from a sample of the patient’s own stem cells. Containing millions of living, beating cells, it will then turn itself into a healthy working muscle.

Tests on rabbits showed it appeared safe, experts from the Imperial College London told a heart conference in Manchester. They predicted that patient trials would start in the next two years.

Heart failure affects about 920,000 people in the United Kingdom.

* * *

Sixty-six criminals were mistakenly released from British prisons in the year to March 2018, and campaigners blamed “an over-burdened and under-resourced system”.

The prisoners were doing time for offences ranging from theft, drugs and arson to robbery and violence against the person.

Andrew Nelson, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said, “Prison staff are working under pressure and being asked to look after more people than the prisons are designed to hold. Bold action is needed to reduce the prison population.”

* * *

Needing money for his dilapidated church, a pastor asked the congregation for donations, promising that whoever gave the most could choose three hymns for the next Sunday service.

When, to his delight, a thousand-dollar note appeared in the collection basket, the reverend asked the generous donor to step forward. An old lady raised her hand and he said, “Come, my dear, and pick your hymns”.

Leaning heavily on her cane, the lady surveyed the handsome men in the congregation and said, “I’ll have him and him and him.”

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