Under new rules which came into force on 29 December 2015, it is now a criminal offence to behave in a ‘coercive and/or controlling’ manner in a relationship. That relationship can be between current partners, former partners and family members, providing they live the same household. The behaviour can come in various forms such as via social media or over the telephone and does not just have to be face to face.

The new rules give a much wider scope to what is classed as domestic abuse. It can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional.

Domestic abuse incidents must be reported to the police and when two or more have been reported, the police can take action.

The behaviour must have had a ‘serious or substantial adverse effect’ on the victims’ daily life.

What exactly is ‘controlling and coercive behaviour’?

Coercive behaviour is defined as ‘continuing acts’ or a ‘pattern of acts’ of ‘assault, threats [however subtle], humiliation and intimidation’ and any other abuse which is used to harm, punish or frighten any person in the relationship.
Controlling behaviour is defined as “a range of acts” to make a person subordinate in the relationship and/or dependent upon the perpetrator of these acts. If the controlling behaviour leads to another person in the relationship being deprived of their independence, isolated from sources of support; if they cannot escape and if their behaviour is regulated by the perpetrator, then it is a criminal offence.

The above list is not exhaustive and there is a more comprehensive list to be found here.

There are of course some instances when the offence does not apply, usually because the act(s) is covered by other legislation:

  • When the offence is against a child under 16;
  • When the perpetrator and victim are not ‘personally connected’ at the time of the behaviour;
  • When the behaviour occurs to someone who lives outside the household. (Housemates do not apply unless they are in an intimate relationship.)

Legal Aid is available for those who are suffering domestic abuse of any form. If you require any advice please contact  one of our experienced family law solicitors.

Alternatively, family solicitors will be available at our free weekly on Thursday afternoons between 4pm and 6pm at our Blackburn, Burnley and Accrington offices.