Coram ChambersFamily Law Week Email Subscription1 Garden CourtAlpha Biolabs

New definition of domestic violence will include ‘coercive control’

Victims aged 16 and 17 will be recognised

The Home Office has announced that it will extend the definition of domestic violence so that it will now include 'coercive control' and will encompass young people under 18.

A change to the official definition of domestic violence used across government will aim to increase awareness that young people in this age-group do experience domestic violence and abuse. This follows on from the Government's Teenage Relationship Abuse Campaign and is backed up by the British Crime Survey 2009/10 which found that 16-19-year-olds were the group most likely to suffer abuse from a partner.

The government is also setting up a new NSPCC young people's panel to help inform the government's work on tackling domestic violence, particularly by and against young people

New definition
The new definition of domestic violence and abuse now states:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,  violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

• psychological
• physical
• sexual
• financial
• emotional.

Controlling behaviour is:

a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is:

an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This definition, which is not a legal definition (but is used by government departments for the purposes of, for example, targeting support services), includes so called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

The new definition will be implemented by March 2013.