Monday, 24 November 2014

Definition of 'domestic violence' to be extended to include mind games

A new law on domestic violence, making it illegal for someone to exercise ‘coercive control’ over their partner, will be unveiled by the Government this week.

Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to announce new powers allowing the police to prosecute those who are guilty of psychological and emotional abuse.

It means for the first time men 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 have long called for a change in the law to put psychological exploitation on a par with physical violence, in the hope it will encourage more victims to come forward and report abuse in the home.

While the government’s definition of domestic violence recognises the impact of coercive control and threatening behaviour, this has not previously been reflected in law.

Police investigating reports of domestic abuse are often left frustrated as abusers are not prosecuted due to a lack of clear evidence or gaps in the legislation.

In cases where perpetrators are brought before the courts, they are often only charged with isolated crimes, with years of psychological and emotional abuse not taken into account.

The new law will be introduced as a series of amendments to the Serious Crime Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, and is expected to be on the statute books in the New Year.

Under the terms of the Bill a person convicted of coercive control could face up to 14-years in prison and there will be no statutory time limit for the offences, meaning abuse dating back years can be taken into account.

When similar laws were introduced in the United States it led to a 50 per cent rise in the number of women coming forward to report domestic abuse.

To read the whole of this article, which first appeared in The Telegraph, please click here

If you, or someone you know, has been the subject of coercive control, come and speak to us.  Sally Fitzherbert has experience with Womens Aid and domestic violence.

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