Transforming the response to domestic abuse

Closes 31 May 2018

Coercive or controlling behaviour offence

“As our relationship developed he became more and more controlling and paranoid. I wasn't allowed to visit my family or friends and I wasn't allowed to work. I only had £70 a week to live off and this had to pay for everything: food, electricity, bills and clothes for the baby. I had to wear my long hair short, I wasn't allowed to use makeup and I had to have baggy, loose fitting clothes. I wasn't even allowed to answer the door" [1]

Incidents of domestic abuse can be prosecuted under a wide range of criminal offences, including assault or other relevant offences against the person, sexual offences, criminal damage, public order offences and murder.

In December 2015 an additional offence specific to domestic abuse was introduced of Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship (section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015).

The offence allows perpetrators whose behaviour amounts to psychological and emotional abuse, but stops short of inflicting physical harm or violence, to be prosecuted.

This offence now exists alongside other relevant criminal offences which are often used to prosecute domestic abuse. This offence closed the gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour during a relationship between intimate partners, former partners who still live together, or family members, with other relevant offences still available to prosecutors.

Since the introduction of the offence, more than 300 cases have been charged and reached a first hearing.[2] Although it is still early days we are keen to identify areas that may strengthen the offence.

45. Do you think there is further action the government could take to strengthen the effectiveness of the controlling or coercive behaviour offence?