We are expecting the Government to announce the commencement date for the new law around coercive control within the next few weeks. The legislation will outlaw patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour. Whilst the new legislation is long overdue it is essential that professionals are properly trained otherwise victims will continue to be let down and the legislation will not be effective.
Domestic abuse is still misunderstood by many professionals in the criminal justice system, I still routinely hear victim blaming comments by Judges, Lawyers and the Police with the question “why doesn’t she leave” taking precedence over efforts to protect the victim and prosecute the perpetrator.
Many say that the new coercive control law will be unworkable due to evidential difficulties. There is no doubt that there will be challenges in some cases however this is not a reason to ignore it as a criminal offence or fail to make proper efforts to investigate it. We have seen with sexual offences and the stalking legislation that where professionals are properly trained and a thorough investigation takes place prosecutions can be, and frequently are, successful.
There are multiple sources of evidence and we must ensure that lazy investigations do not mean that we are solely reliant on the victim’s testimony if possible. There are often other witnesses to the behaviour, diaries, text messages, GPS evidence, bank account history, voicemails and photographs etc.
Whilst technology has meant that it is now easier than ever to stalk / coercively control a victim it also creates a raft of indisputable evidence. Proper training around the dynamics of coercive control and proper investigations will be the key to the success of this legislation and when one considers that the financial cost of domestic violence is estimated at over £20 billion per annum, training would be an investment rather than an expense.
Rachel Horman delivers training on Coercive Control, Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence and is also an accredited DASH Risk Assessment Trainer.
Click below to listen to Rachel Horman discussing the above issues on BBC Radio 5Live 16th October 2015.