I suspect we should be concerned about this:
A woman who bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer has had her murder conviction quashed on the grounds he abused her throughout their 31-year marriage.
Georgia ‘Sally’ Challen, 65, struck Richard Challen on the head more than 20 times as he ate breakfast in their £1m house in August 2010.
A jury convicted her of murder the following year.
Having already served eight years of her 18-year sentence, Mrs Challen’s sons David, 31 and James, 35, have been fighting for their mum’s conviction to be downgraded with support from Justice for Women and thousands of #FreeSallyChallen campaigners.
Mrs Challen’s lawyers argued the ‘coercive control’ she suffered at the hands of her husband throughout their marriage amounted to provocation.
The appeal is the first time the defence of coercive and controlling behaviour has been used in a murder trial.
It was only recognised in law as a form of domestic abuse in 2015 – four years after Sally’s conviction.
Does anyone see the problem here?
It would be easy to say ‘well she’s already done 8 years in prison, and she’s surely going to spend some more time behind bars when they find her guilty of manslaughter at the next trial’. It would be even easier to say ‘and he was probably a right arsehole who deserved it anyway’.
But all of that would be besides the points, of which there are several.
Firstly, if she hit him 20 times over the head with a hammer, can that even be manslaughter? It’s not like she was putting up Christmas decorations and accidentally dropped the hammer on his head twenty times. Whether it was pre-meditated or heat-of-the-moment, how can it not be murder? So far as I’m aware, It was the finding of guilt that was thrown out, not the sentence handed down.
Secondly, the appeal succeeded on grounds of a defence that wasn’t the law when she did what she did – a retrospective application. A law that was plainly meant to work in favour of women. The very idea that this was the epitome of a bad law was dismissed out of hand when it was going through parliament.
It would take a delusion of the most spectacular kind to deny the fact that ‘coercive control’ is principally a woman’s weapon of choice in the theatre of domestic warfare, and yet, we know damned well that this law was meant to be wielded by women against men.
The report in the paper implies that evidence of co-ercive control was found in the contract he ‘made her sign’ .
Mr Challen, 61, had told his wife she should not interrupt him when he was talking, not talk to strangers and quit smoking as part of an agreement drawn up to salvage their marriage.
Is there any relationship between a smoker and a non-smoker in recent times that hasn’t come to a point of “give up smoking or we are finished”? God knows I’ve been there and so have many others who defy the narrow social conventions of the day. Perhaps there’s a reason she shouldn’t talk to strangers. Perhaps she is prone to be indiscreet, or overly trusting in non-familiars. Perhaps she has a history of infidelity. He must have had his reasons, even if his resolution to them lacked nuance.
As for ‘don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking’ … well.. really.. licence to kill someone with a hammer? Perhaps again with good reason did he make this demand. Perhaps she’s one of those self-absorbed, socially maladjusted people who talks over other people, and just can’t keep it in her head for 2 minutes. After thirty five years of that, who wouldn’t seize an opportunity to rule it out of bounds in future conduct?
And how did he have the power to make such demands anyway? Either he was, in turn, agreeing to reciprocal demands (if so, what were they?), or it was her who wanted to mend the relationship and these were his take-it-or-leave-it terms. Either way, it would seem that she was there of her own volition and after a recent agreement to be so.
The third point is that this outcome fits a pattern of sytematic attempts to see that crimes committed by women are neither interpreted the same way as crimes committed by men nor punished in the same way.
There has been a push over more than a decade now to see to it that women don’t face the music for the bald acts committed in the same way that men do.
As if this isn’t already baked into our system of law, as a legacy of chivalry (a.k.a. ‘the patriarchy’). Is it unreasonable to suspect that when a judge presides over a case where the accused man has killed a woman, the judge wishes to condemn that man in the strongest possible terms, but presiding over a case where a woman has killed a man, the judge is wont to take account of the flimsiest of mitigations? One might even suspect that the Oxford-educated female judge in this case had additional political axes that she saw an opportunity to grind.
Judges very often allude to the ‘message that is being sent’ when handing down their judgements – it’s the P.C. equivalent of ‘pour encourager les autres’. What exactly is the message in this case? That a woman considering dealing fatal blows to a man stands a far better chance of getting away with it than she thought, so long as she can come up with a sufficiently ‘narrative-aligned’ cock & bull story in mitigation? As if the answer to the problem of more women being murdered by men than men being murdered by women is to make it easier for women to murder men.
In the overall societal tapestry, weaving in such messages merely serves to put a further thumb on the scales of inter-sex relationships, and make the whole shoting match yet less appealing for men. The demands of self-preservation dictate that men withdraw from any relationship that gets to be in the slightest bit antagonistic, because as the heat rises, they stand more and more chance of getting stitched up by everyone from the woman to the police to the judges, and stand less and less chance of justice being done in the event that they are sinned against themselves. It’s just another straw on the camel’s back.
I think I’ve shared this video before, but it’s worth sharing again…
The campaign for this woman seems to have been led by a group calling themselves “Justice for Women”. Their site says the organisation was set up in 1990 as a feminist campaigning organisation, but the name does not appear in UK Companies House or Charities Commission registries. They take donations on their website, yet there’s nothing making clear the legal entity via which such funds are channelled and managed, which does seem odd.
Justice for Women is made up of women from all walks of life, including legal practitioners, researchers, activists and women working in the field of male violence.
None of those involved with the organisation are named on its website either. All of which is curious and would stand further investigation – I’d certainly like to know who supports and funds this group, given its nebulous status.
Bindel’s research into violence against women in domestic and personal relationships has been a central feature of her work. Together with her partner, Harriet Wistrich, a solicitor, and Hilary McCollum, Bindel co-founded Justice for Women (JFW), a feminist law-reform group that campaigns against laws that discriminate against women in cases involving male violence against partners.
So there we are. A campaign by radical feminist lesbians – women who don’t even have relations with men. Who clearly are interested in justice being fair and even-handed for all, and not female-supremacist in any way.
I wonder if they could be interested in studies that show the high level of domestic violence in lesbian relationships.
Stonewall’s research shows that one in four lesbian and bi women have experienced domestic abuse in a relationship. Two thirds of those say the perpetrator was a woman, a third a man.
There we find:
- Created significant links with a range of key player women’s sector and legal NGO organisations in the field (including End Violence Against Women coalition, the Nia project, Liberty and the Public Law Project) and established partnership projects with Justice for Women, Southall Black Sisters, Rights of Women and Women in Prison;
- Secured funding for and embarked upon a research project with Justice for Women on women who kill, to identify best practice by criminal defence lawyers with a view to developing training;
and this, which bears its own line of enquiry:
Is it just my imagination, or is this Justice For Women entity a sort of grey zone where money is channelled, in order to use charity proceeds for ventures that a charity would not be allowed to undertake?
It is almost inconceivable that Wistrich (and by extension Bindel) doesn’t move in the same circles as the judge in this case, both being Oxford alumni, and London lawyers.