The BBC has recently reported on the new domestic violence law that could see perpetrators jailed for up to 5 years. Effective from December 2015, the legislation targets ‘coercive and controlling’ behaviour:
The Crown Prosecution Service said the type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation.
It could also involve stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said: "Controlling or coercive behaviour can limit victims' basic human rights, such as their freedom of movement and their independence.
"This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving.
"Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else's rules. Often they fear that violence will be used against them, or suffer from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.
"These new powers mean this behaviour, which is particularly relevant to cases of domestic abuse, can now be prosecuted in its own right."
This widened view of domestic abuse also includes forced marriages and so-called “honour crimes”, something we were writing about in December 2014 when Victoria Poole (one of our Resolution-accredited specialists in Domestic Abuse) put together her thoughts in the article ‘Forced Marriages – The Shame of It’.
The charity Women’s Aid has hailed the law change a ‘landmark moment’ , with Polly Neate (Chief Exec, Women’s Aid) adding:
It must be accompanied by awareness-raising among the public, and comprehensive professional training for all agencies that deal with domestic abuse.
In particular, it is vital that frontline police officers truly understand coercive control and the impact it has on victims. These officers must be routinely provided with information and details about any previous incidents prior to attending any domestic abuse incident. This requires good data collection, training for police officers and call handlers, effective systems in place, and proper oversight by senior officers.
At SH&Co, our feeling is that the new changes in domestic abuse law are a definite step in the right direction, but wider changes across the public and all agencies dealing with victims and collecting evidence would make an even bigger difference in tackling domestic abuse.
If you feel you may be a victim of domestic abuse and/or violence, or you know someone who is, please get in touch with us on 01606 48777 for a confidential discussion.
Victoria Poole and Rachael Kirkpatrick are both Resolution-accredited specialists in Domestic Abuse and we are here to help.