Home Secretary Theresa May has today (Thursday 18 December) announced a new domestic abuse offence of coercive and controlling behaviour.
The maximum penalty for the new offence will be five years imprisonment and a fine.
The new law will help protect victims by outlawing sustained patterns of behaviour that stop short of serious physical violence, but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse. Victims of coercive control can have every aspect of life controlled by their partner, often being subjected to daily intimidation and humiliation.
The government ran a consultation over the summer seeking views on whether the law on domestic abuse needs to be strengthened. Eighty-five per cent of respondents agreed that the law does not currently provide sufficient protection to victims. Fifty-five per cent said that a new offence was needed to strengthen and clarify the law on coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships.
The offence will be drafted to ensure that it is clear and proportionate and does not impact on ordinary power dynamics in relationships.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
Domestic abuse is a hideous crime that shatters the lives of victims, trapping them in cycles of abuse that too often end in tragic and untimely deaths.
Coercive control can be tantamount to torture. In many cases, dominance over the victim develops and escalates over the years until the perpetrator has complete control. Putting a foot wrong can result in violent outbursts, with victims living in fear for their lives.
Meeting survivors of domestic abuse and hearing their shocking stories has made me all the more determined to put a stop to this scourge on our society.
The government is committed to protecting the victims of this terrible crime and it is clear that this new offence has the potential to save lives.
Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining minute aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep and go to the toilet.
The new offence complements major ongoing work in response to an investigation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary on the police response to domestic abuse, commissioned by the Home Secretary. In addition to creating the new offence, the Home Secretary is chairing a national oversight group to lead implementation of the report’s recommendations and make significant and lasting improvements to how the police deal with domestic abuse.