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Coercive or controlling behaviour now a crime

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force on 29th December 2015

Victims who would otherwise be subjected to sustained patterns of domestic abuse will be able to seek protection under a new offence which came into force on the 29th December.

The new coercive or controlling behaviour offence, which is contained in section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, will mean victims who experience the type of behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, can bring their perpetrators to justice.

This type of abuse in an intimate or family relationship can include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation, or behaviour such as stopping a partner socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear. Controlling or coercive behaviour causes someone either:

The offence will carry a maximum of 5 years' imprisonment, a fine or both.

Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation Karen Bradley said:

"Our new coercive or controlling behaviour offence will protect victims who would otherwise be subjected to sustained patterns of abuse that can lead to total control of their lives by the perpetrator. We are sending a clear message that it is wrong to violate the trust of those closest to you and that emotional and controlling abuse will not be tolerated."

Referrals, prosecutions and the volume of convictions for domestic violence and abuse have risen to their highest ever levels.

When reviewing these cases, prosecutors will be trained to look at the overall effect this controlling and/or coercive behaviour had on the victim. The consideration of the cumulative impact of controlling or coercive behaviour and the pattern of behaviour within the context of the relationship will be crucial.

This behaviour can include:

The statutory guidance framework in respect of the offence is here.