Sally Challen spent nearly a decade behind bars for killing her abusive husband. She was initially sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, but after new evidence came to light about her mental state at the time, the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial and accepted her guilty plea of manslaughter. Subsequently, her sentence was reduced to nine years and four months and she was able to leave prison.
Her husband had subjected her to decades of ‘coercive control’. The law defines coercive control as: “a continuing act, or pattern of acts, of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”. It is a form of domestic abuse and, since December 2015, also a criminal offence. This means that victims who experience behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, can bring their perpetrators to justice. The offence carries a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Examples include isolating a person from their friends or family; depriving them of basic needs, medical support or other support services; monitoring their time; monitoring a person via online communication tools; and taking over aspects of their everyday life – such as where they go, who they see and what they wear.
Coercive or controlling behaviour does not relate to a single incident, but a purposeful pattern of incidents that occur over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.
Although coercive control is a recognised criminal offence, within the family court we can apply for orders to keep victims safe and to not have to suffer this form of abuse. If you need help, please call us as soon as possible on 01392 421777 to make your first, free appointment.