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Government consults on specific offence of domestic abuse

Home Secretary Theresa May asks whether a new criminal offence could drive culture change and help protect victims

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The government has launched a consultation looking at strengthening the law by creating a new offence of domestic abuse.

The consultation asks whether the law needs to be changed to reinforce the fact that domestic abuse can be emotional and psychological as well as physical. This could in turn help to bring about a culture change amongst the public and police, and in the courts.

The change could potentially help protect victims of abuse whose partners cause terrible harm through long-term patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour. This could include threatening victims with violence, cutting them off from friends and family or refusing them access to money to limit their freedom.

Protection for victims

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

Domestic abuse is a brutal reality for thousands of victims up and down the UK whose lives are shattered by the people closest to them. In the most tragic cases, it can lead to murder. That is why tackling domestic abuse is one of this government’s top priorities.

The government is clear that abuse is not just physical. Victims who are subjected to a living hell by their partners must have the confidence to come forward. Meanwhile, I want perpetrators to be in no doubt that their cruel and controlling behaviour is criminal.

We will look at the results of this consultation carefully in order to continue providing the best possible protection and support for victims of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse

The consultation is part of ongoing work to support victims of domestic abuse. The government is particularly interested to hear from people who have experienced domestic abuse and from the experts who work with them.

The government already defines domestic abuse as including non-violent behaviour, such as humiliation, intimidation or acts that are used to harm, punish or frighten the victim. A change in the law would aim to make this position more clear and raise awareness of the part emotional cruelty plays in domestic abuse.

Published 21 August 2014