From 29 December 2015, coercion and control in a relationship is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The new legislation mean that victims who are subjected to coercive and controlling behaviour can bring their perpetrators to justice, with incidents that stop short of serious physical violence but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse will now be recognised as a crime within the domestic abuse framework.
Detective Chief Superintendent at Greater Manchester Police, Vanessa Jardine, said:
“This change in legislation means for the first time perpetrators who control their partners through threats or by restricting their personal or financial freedom could face prison in the same way as those who are violent towards them.
“Campaigners for a long time have called for a change in the law to put psychological exploitation on a par with physical violence. Coercive control has been described by many experts as the most damaging and risky form of abuse , whereby victims describe losing a sense of themselves and becoming trapped in a false sense of reality.
“This type of abuse is less likely to be reported to the police as victims often feel they won’t be believed and prefer to lean on friends and families . It is vital therefore that officers are aware of the new legislation and make great efforts to understand the underlying causes and triggers for abuse particularly in cases where physical violence may not be apparent.”
To contact your local domestic abuse unit call the GMP switchboard on 101. In an emergency where there is an immediate threat to life or property always call 999.
Behaviour included under the new legislation includes (but is not limited to) –
- Isolating someone from their family and friends
- Monitoring someone via online communication tools such as social media
- Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep
- Depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services
- Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless
- Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim
- Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities
- Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working
You can read more about the new law and the types of behaviour associated with coercion and control in this document: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-guidance-framework-controlling-or-coercive-behaviour-in-an-intimate-or-family-relationship