In a HIGH COURT JUDGMENT    last week, the Court exercised its discretion under the Forfeiture Act 1892, to allow the Claimant, Sally Challen to inherit her deceased husband’s estate, despite being convicted of his manslaughter.  The COURT OF APPEAL JUDGMENT contains many of the facts relevant to the criminal proceedings.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Ms Challen’s murder conviction was unsafe due to the omission of what was held to be important expert evidence, but made no finding on whether her deceased husband exercised ‘Coercive Control’ or committed any criminal acts. The Court of Appeal ordered a re-trial.

Subsequently the CPS and the Defence agreed on a manslaughter plea.  The CPS will have taken into account the likelihood of conviction (bearing in mind the criminal standard of proof) and the public interest. 

Despite the absence of any finding by another Court of coercive control, at paragraph 71, the judge determined that without the deceased’s ‘appalling behaviour’ the Claimant would not have killed him. 

The Court of Appeal Judgment includes the following paragraph in summarising the facts of the case:

In the week before the killing, the appellant viewed the deceased’s Facebook page several times,

and in particular, she saw an entry for a woman whom the deceased had arranged to meet

socially and with others on Sunday, 15 August.  On Saturday, 14 August the appellant

took a hammer with her and she went to the former matrimonial home to help her husband

clear out the house and garage.  At about 3.30 pm she went out to buy food for lunch. 

In her absence the deceased telephoned a woman and left a voicemail message.  When she

returned, the appellant noticed that the phone had been moved.  She called the last dialled

number and realised the deceased had called another woman.  Knowing he had made

arrangements to meet her, the appellant asked the deceased if she could see him the

following day.  He replied, “Don’t question me.”

She made them something to eat.  As he was eating, she took the hammer from her handbag and

repeatedly hit him over the head with severe blows.  He must have tried unsuccessfully to

defend himself because there were nine sites of injuries to his hand and arms consistent

with defensive wounds.  She then covered his body with blankets and left a note which

said, “I love you, Sally”, changed her clothes and went home”.

Furthermore, at page 16 of the Judgment, the Prosecution refer to the fact that Ms Challen had admitted to taking the hammer to the deceased’s home and to doing so on a previous occasion.

‘Coercive Control’ became an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2015.  CPS GUIDANCE refers to behaviour that is already a criminal offence as well as behaviour that no right minded person would condone.

However, there are also very vague and wide-ranging descriptions under the ‘Relevant Behaviour’ section, for example ‘taking control of their everyday life’.  This does not have to involve threats of violence or conduct that would otherwise be criminal – see section 76 (4) (b) SCA.

This NEWSPAPER ARTICLE which is supposed to be describing the law, asserts that a relationship ‘must be a partnership’ (point 9) and that not giving a spouse enough money, may contravene the law (point 2).