Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force on 29 December 2015 introducing the offence of coercive or controlling behaviour. The new offence carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Prior to this date, victims who were subjected to patterns of domestic abuse could not always rely on the law for protection. In terms of identifying domestic abuse, the law provided a simplistic definition of domestic abuse characterised by actual physical violence. Common sense tells us that a person does not have to be physically attacked to feel intimidated or fear the possibility of violence.
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and so does domestic abuse. The new offence of coercive or controlling behaviour will mean victims who experience the type of behaviour that stops just short of physical violence can seek to rely on the law for protection.
This type of abuse can include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation, behaviour such as stopping a partner socialising, controlling their social media accounts or even dictating what they wear.
Controlling or coercive behaviour causes someone either:
- 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.
There are concerns that some people simply will not be able to tell if the behaviour they are being subjected to falls within the definition characterised by the new offence. Therefore it is vital that if a person suspects that they or someone else is being subjected to coercive or controlling behaviour that they should either contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline or speak to one of our experts.