I was delighted to hear the announcement at the weekend of the commencement date for the new laws around coercive control and domestic abuse. I was involved in the campaign for this change with Paladin – National Stalking Advocacy Service, Women’s Aid and the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation and believe that this change is vital if we are serious about protecting victims of domestic abuse. Coercive Control is present in the vast majority of abusive relationships and is the dynamic that enables the abuse to happen. It is the reason why women feel unable to leave and the means by which men get away with carrying out sometimes sadistic and unthinkable acts against their partners.
The government defines controlling behaviour as “a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”
It defines Coercive behaviour as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.”
The government has used the above as part of its definition of domestic violence since 2013 but until now the police have been unable to prosecute for many acts of non-violent abuse. The amount of times I have heard client’s told “come back when he hits you” is simply unacceptable. One of my client’s was forced to eat her meals from a dog bowl on the floor and another forbidden to use the heating, lighting or toilet without permission however the criminal law was incapable of helping them.
From the 29 December 2015 however the police and CPD will be able to start using the coercive control legislation however I am concerned about the lack of training given to these agencies will mean that the legislation is simply not used and victims will continue to be let down. This is what we have seen with the slow uptake of the Stalking legislation with only 1% of cases reported to the police prosecuted. The government has taken a bold step in bringing this legislation forward lets hope they back it up with funding for training to enable the CJS agencies to understand Coercive Control and offer protection to victims.
The new law criminalises a pattern of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship. The law requires at least 2 incidents which is designed to show the pattern of abusive behaviour and encourage those in the CJS to link-up the examples of behaviour to better demonstrate the devastating impact of the repeated behaviour on the victim.
The law sates that the perpetrator must “know or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious impact on the victim” which means that this a reasonable person test rather than a subjective one so that “I didn’t realise” will not in itself be a defence.
For further information email Rachel.Horman@watsonramsbottom.com