UK to get law that addresses the most prevalent form of domestic abuse - coercive control

UK to get law that addresses the most prevalent form of domestic abuse - coercive control

The government announced today that they will be introducing a new bill on coercive control, as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill.  Harry Fletcher, Criminal Justice Director, Digital-Trust, who has been campaigning and working with all parties to introduce new legislation, welcomes the announcement.

In February 2014, Elfyn Llwyd MP, put before Parliament a Ten Minute Rule Bill concerning Domestic Violence.  Llwyd and Fletcher have been in consultations for the last eight months with victims, criminal justice agencies and women’s groups on what any new legislation should contain.

“The Bill we have proposed is very much influenced by victims’ experience. We wanted to know what had happened in their particular case and what legal remedy would have helped. For example, we proposed there should be no time limit on ‘coercive control’ because victims often need time to get safe and recover before enduring a legal case” explained Fletcher.

Wendy Green, Domestic Violence Coordinator for Rushcliffe Borough Council, who contributed to the consultation and works with vulnerable women every day and, “It can be very difficult to safeguard women because the current law doesn’t recognise psychological or financial abuse. This law is a huge step forward but it has to be accompanied with training and guidelines on investigation, evidence gathering and prosecution before it can be effective.”

The Bill which Fletcher drafted this year alongside Llwyd’s office would require police services to adopt, publish and implement policies and standards for officers’ responses to coercive control. That training would not only be a requirement for the police, but any agency who may come into contact with domestic violence cases - including Crown Prosecution Service, health care, social services and education. 

Elfyn Llwyd MP supports a change in the law.  He said:  “Some of the worst cases of domestic abuse don’t include physical harm, but use coercive and controlling behaviour to inflict psychological abuse and maintain power over a victim. The current law is inadequate to deal with this type of abuse”

Llwyd and Fletcher will continue to work with Parliamentarians as the Bill goes through the House of Commons and the Lords. They will be making sure the provisions are robust and successfully implemented within the criminal justice system.

Background
The lack of appropriate legislation is a major contributory factor into the low charging and conviction rates on domestic abuse in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which in 2011 stood at just 6.5% . It is also why murder or suicide rates amongst victims of domestic violence remains far too high.

  • Two women are killed every week in England and Wales through domestic abuse, a recurring number (Home Office statistics).
  • 500 women who have experienced domestic abuse in the last six months commit suicide every year. Of those, just fewer than 200 attended hospital for domestic abuse on the day they died. (The Cost of Domestic abuse. Women and Equality Unit, Walby, 2004).

Examples of digital coercive control

  • Accessing text, email or online accounts to gather information or monitor a victim
  • Using GPS tracking devices to find victim’s location
  • Installing surveillance software on computer or mobile phones
  • Employing listening devices or video cameras to surveil victim
  • Providing children with spyware installed on smartphones to listen to conversations in a room or track their location.

Statistics

  • 80.4% of women in refuges and 85.6% of women using non-refuge services had experienced emotional abuse (Women’s Aid)
  • 57.4% of women in refuges and 49.7% of women using non-refuge services had experienced financial abuse (Women’s Aid)
  • 500 women who have experienced domestic abuse in the last six months commit suicide every year. Of those, just fewer than 200 attended hospital for domestic abuse on the day they died. (The Cost of Domestic abuse. Women and Equality Unit, Walby, 2004).
  • Some domestic homicides and so-called ‘honour killings’ may be disguised as suicides or accidents, with the help of the extended family and community (Southall Black Sisters).
  • 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime and 6% to 10% of women experience domestic abuse in any given year (Analysis of ten separate domestic abuse prevalence studies by the Council of Europe, 2002).
  • Domestic abuse has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime. (Home Office, July 2002).

PRESS CONTACTS:
Elin Roberts, PR Plaid Cymru t: 07738 182 864 e: elin.plaid@gmail.com

Harry Fletcher Criminal Justice Director, Digital-Trust, CIC
 t: 0786 054 0145 or e: harry@digital-trust.org
Twitter @hfletcher10  www.digital-trust.org

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