Posted by Alexandra Boardman on 8th January 2016

From the 29th of December 2015 coercive and controlling behaviour will became a criminal offence.

What Does This Mean?

It means that a gap in the law has been plugged in respect of this pattern of behaviour between intimate partners, former partners (who still live together) and family members. A very clear message can be given by the Police to any perpetrator when a series of incidents (two or more events) of behaviour of this nature are reported. This would indicate that the severity of the pattern of the behaviour has reached the required standard to support this new charge and therefore a potential prosecution.

This new legislation supports victims when reporting incidents to the police as it now enables the police to identify and recognise ongoing patterns in the perpetrators behaviour. This new legislation has the test of “repeatedly or continuously” when considering the behaviour being complained of and, of whether those incidents amount to a “serious effect” or having a “substantial adverse effect” on the victims’ day to day activities.

What is Coercive & Controlling Behaviour?

Controlling behaviour – this is a range of acts (“a purposeful pattern of behaviours”) carried out by the perpetrator that makes a person dependent upon them. This can, et al, lead to deprivation of the means to allow the victim to have independence; regulation of their behaviour and even depriving someone of a means of escape. This is not an exhaustive explanation and a range of behaviours to be considered are set out within Section 2 of the Statutory Guidance Framework, please see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/482528/Controlling_or_coercive_behaviour_-_statutory_guidance.pdf

Coercive behaviour – a continuing act(s) by the perpetrator of subtle threats, humiliation or intimidation which will lead the victim to being harmed, frightened or believing they will be harmed.

This behaviour can take many forms and not just face to face. This can be, for example, via telephone or social media, but if the behaviour has happened on at least two occasions or has had a substantial effect on the victim or their everyday life it will be considered a criminal offence.

The key difference between this offence and stalking/harassment is that this has to take place between two people who have had a personal relationship.

This is another positive step forward in respect of recognising that Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse can come in more than one guise and is so often not even recognised by our nearest and dearest.   We are pleased to see that these patterns of behaviour are receiving this prominent recognition by new legislation but are all too aware that it is still very difficult for victims of such behaviour to come forward and speak about their experiences for a variety of reasons.

We are able to provide advice to victims who have identified or, are beginning to identify, these patterns of coercive and controlling behaviours within their own relationships. We would advise anyone who is not sure if what they are experiencing is meeting this test, to come and speak to an organisation with experience in dealing with these issues, for a free initial chat and to seek some guidance on what help maybe available for them or, just to have some peace of mind.

Even if you would not wish to support a prosecution for an offence under this new legislation, there are still remedies available to protect you from further and ongoing controlling and coercive behaviour within family law. We are here to provide you with guidance on the choices available ; start 2016 knowing that help and support is available to you. Legal Aid is available to victims of domestic abuse and violence, we would be more than happy to discuss this with you when you come in to see us.

For further information or to make a free initial appointment with one of our experienced team, please contact our Plymouth office on 01752 674999.

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