Coercive or controlling behaviour now a criminal offence

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New legislation has been enacted to help victims suffering from emotional or psychological abuse. From 29 December, coercive and controlling behaviour has become a criminal offence under Section 76 of the Serious Crimes Act 2015 and anyone found guilty of this new crime could face up to five years imprisonment, £1000 in fines or both.

Attitudes towards domestic abuse have evolved since the idea that what happened in the home was a private matter. Public campaigns have encouraged victims to come forward and have reduced the stigma attached to being a victim of abuse for both men and women. Changes in the law echo that of public opinion and have created legal consequences for abusers and remedies for the victims. A prime example of this being Section 76 mentioned above.

Coercive or controlling behaviour can include isolating a person and preventing them from seeing friends and family, dictating what they wear, taking full control of finances, threatening to hurt them or their loved ones and similar behaviour. It focuses on a pattern of emotional and psychological abuse against the victim as opposed to a physical attack.

The legislation requires the behaviour to be repeated and continuous, with a serious effect on the victim that causes them to fear violence within an intimate, personal relationship. Section 76 is designed to be an aid to both men and women and recognises both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. We are yet to see the effect of this legislation but it has been welcomed by many for being a tool used to help victims before they are physically abused.

Find out more about the Legislation in the GOV website.

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