Victim’s son welcomes ‘fantastic’ new domestic abuse act in Scotland

Scotland’s new domestic abuse law has been welcomed by the son of a woman who killed her husband after being psychologically abused.

Sally Challen’s conviction for murdering her husband Richard with a hammer was quashed in February.

It came after what son David Challen described as “insidious coercive control” during their 40-year marriage.

On the day legislation making coercive and controlling behaviour a crime in Scotland come into force, he welcomed the “fantastic” new law and sentences of up to 14 years for the domestic abuse compared to five years in England.

The Domestic Abuse Act, passed by the Scottish Parliament in February last year, creates a specific offence of domestic abuse covering psychological and emotional maltreatment as well as physical attacks.

It includes abusers isolating their victim from their friends and relatives or controlling their finances and – for the first time in the UK – makes the impact domestic abuse can have on children an aggravating factor, which could lead to courts handing down tougher sentences as a result.

David Challen (pictured with his mother Sally) said: “It’s a monumental moment and I think it pushes forward our understanding of domestic violence to really tackle it properly.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Challen also called for society “to understand domestic violence properly so we can save more lives and stop this happening for good” and for courts to look at the “root causes” of potential incidents involving people in abusive relationships.

Mr Challen said: “Coercive control is the bedrock foundation of domestic violence – you can’t hope to understand domestic violence without understanding coercive control.

“It is the controlling factor among all abuse and it’s where it all starts.”

He explained how his mother got into a relationship with his father Richard when she was just 15 and he was 21.

David Challen explained how his father created an abusive situation of “controlling what she would think, of isolating her movements as well as her connection with friends and family, cancelling social events and verbally shaming her in public”.

“She did suffer physical violence but the main thing here was the coercive, controlling nature of just getting inside her head and controlling how she should think and how she should operate,” he added.

Ms Challen was found guilty of murder at Guildford Crown Court and jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years, later reduced on appeal by four years.

A panel of three judges has now ordered a retrial after hearing about psychiatric evidence that was not available at the time of her trial in 2011.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the introduction of the legislation as a “landmark moment”.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The Domestic Abuse Act makes absolutely clear that coercive and controlling behaviour is domestic abuse and a crime.

“I am proud Scotland is leading the way with this groundbreaking legislation, which uniquely recognises the effect of domestic abuse on child victims as well as adults.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Kirsty O’Connor / PA Wire.