On 29 December 2015 the Serious Crime Act 2015 came in to effect. Under section 76 of that Act it is now a crime to use coercive or controlling behaviour on another person. It is hoped that this will help victims of domestic abuse which falls short of physical violence as they can now seek protection under this new offence.
What could this mean for me?
Victims of controlling or coercive behaviour which causes extreme psychological or emotional harm may now be able to bring their perpetrator to justice. Examples of controlling or coercive behaviour includes a persistent pattern of humiliation, threats and intimidation, controlling social media accounts, stopping a partner from socialising, surveillance through phone applications and dictating how a person dresses.
“Coercive or controlling behaviour” has been defined to mean behaviour which causes someone to fear that violence will be used against them on at least two occasions or serious alarm or distress which has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities. Over time this definition is likely to expand as prosecutions are brought on this basis and the law is tested in this area.
When reviewing cases, prosecutors will be trained to look at the overall effect of the coercive or controlling behaviour on the victim and the cumulative impact of such behaviour will be considered. In addition, prosecutors will consider the pattern of the behaviour within the context of the relationship. The penalty under the new offence is up to 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both.
The new offence comes amidst a background of rising rates of prosecutions and convictions for domestic violence. Convictions for domestic violence are now at their highest level ever recorded.
Where can I get help?
The Family team at QualitySolicitors Knight Polson are pleased to see that victims of domestic abuse are now gaining more protection under criminal law. Previously, it has been very difficult to secure a conviction if you were a victim of coercive or controlling behaviour which amounted to emotional abuse. This is therefore a step in the right direction and one which we welcome.
Whilst this is a positive step, investigations under criminal law can take some time and you may need more immediate help. Our experts can take prompt and effective steps to protect you and your family. We can apply for emergency protective orders to help provide you with the required protection. Don’t suffer in silence, call QualitySolicitors Knight Polson and speak to one of our experts today for free, confidential assistance.