Sally Challen, who was convicted of murdering her husband with a hammer in 2010, this afternoon won an appeal against her conviction. A retrial has been ordered, and her case will go back before a jury.
Challen was convicted of murder in June 2011 and was sentenced for a minimum of 22 years in custody, which was later reduced to 18 years. Speaking outside the Court of Appeal after the judgment was heard, Richard Challen, Sally Challen’s son who campaigned for her appeal, said: ‘She’s not a murderer today.’
The judges allowed today’s appeal because they held that evidence from a consultant forensic psychiatrist concerning two mental disorders which Challen was potentially suffering from at the time of her husband’s killing were not available at the original trial. This evidence will now be put before a jury.
Screams, cheers and clapping were heard in the courtroom when the judgment was read out. The two defences to murder are diminished responsibility and provocation. It will now be open to Sally Challen to raise these defences at trial, based on the new psychiatric evidence.
If Challen is found not guilty at trial, her conviction will be reduced from murder to manslaughter, and will be given a new sentence accordingly. The sentencing range for manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility is between three and 40 years in custody, though the nine years Challen has already spent in prison will be discounted from any sentence handed down.
A request that Challen be released on bail pending her trial was refused by the judges. However, the judges confirmed that Challen’s case would be heard as soon as possible in the Crown Court.