Coercive control to become criminal offence by end of year
Coercive control to become criminal offence by the end of the year
The Digital-Trust welcomes today’s decision by the Home Office to announce the new offence of coercive control in a domestic abusive relationship will come into force on the 29th of December 2015.
For the last two years the Digital-Trust has consistently supported a campaign led by former MP Elfyn Llwyed to criminalise coercive control. A Private Members Bill was drafted by Harry Fletcher, Director of the Digital-Trust and was introduced in February 2014 with cross party support.
Intensive lobbying of all parliamentarians led to the government accepting the case for change and amendments were tabled to the Serious Crime Bill in January 2015.
Coercive control in an intimate relationship became law in late March this year. The implementation of the law was delayed to allow for training and guidelines for the police and CPS.
In the past, the absence of the criminalisation of coercive control was a major contributory factory to low reporting, arrest, charging and conviction rates.
According to Women’s Aid only 6.5% of domestic abuse incidents reported to the police lead to a conviction. Currently, 25% of domestic abuse cases passed on to Crown Prosecution Services result in no action being taken.
So far conviction for domestic abuse have only been based on physical violence but psychological abuse is just as serious and dangerous. Coercive controlling behaviour can involve: Financial, physical, relationship, movement, psychological and surveillance control.
Financial control can involve preventing access to bank accounts, non-payment of child allowances, or restricting the victim’s ability to earn a living.
Relationship controlling behaviour involves restricting someone from meeting or communicating with others, alienating friends through intimidation, monitoring a person’s communications.
Movement control can include house arrest, confiscating passport or withholding keys to car.
Perpetrators often use technology as a tool to exert control. Domestic abuse can involve surveillance software on computers or mobile technology to monitor movement conversations, use of tracking devices on a vehicle, installing video or listening equipment.
A person convicted of coercive control under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act can face up to 5 years in prison. Under section 77 of the same Bill the Secretary of State was given power to revise and issue new guidance about the investigation of offences under section 76.
Harry Fletcher, Director of Digital-Trust
Harry Fletcher, Director of the Digital-Trust said: “For too long, victims of coercive control have had no redress. For too long, criminal justice professionals have failed to recognise the serious nature of this behaviour. This new law will result in more perpetrators being brought to justice and it will increase the rights of victims.
“It is essential that the implementation of these measures are clearly monitored to ensure the police effectively gather evidence of coercive control for prosecutors. It is crucial that training for all criminal justice professionals continues to be updated and rolled out so all staff understand the serious nature of this behaviour and the need for sanctions”.
Case Study used as part of the original campaign for Coercive Control Bill.
Emma 38 is bright, articulate with impeccable manners and mother to two football mad boys. They had a very middle class family life. Everyone thought that Emma and her husband Mark were a normal family. He was charming and seemed very attentive toward Emma and the boys. But when they were at home things were very different.
“I’ve experienced abuse throughout my 13 year marriage,” Emma explains. “Towards the end of the relationship this had become more physical. However, in the years leading up to this, I experienced on-going harassment, emotional abuse and isolation from friends and family plus complete control over family finances. I had not realised until more recently that this was domestic abuse.
I have been made to feel through coercive acts that I should not be away from the home and that my friends and family were made to feel very unwelcome within our home – there was an aura of hostility towards them created by him. He moved us to a rural home. Mark worked from home so I became more and more isolated and dependent on him.
Friends, colleagues and agencies were contacted by my husband and he would attempt to plant in their heads that I was out of control, that the children were in danger, that I was depressed and unstable. Mark even asked family friends who were health professionals for their “personal assessment” of my mental state. He spread lies about me to undermine and humiliate me and to cloud the perceptions of those especially to those who were starting to notice his behaviour.
The most difficult aspect in trying to escape him and move on is the financial control he had – still has. My husband paid the bills, made financial decisions, bought all the food and therefore had control over what the family ate. I was given a small allowance each week and had to explain what I did with it.
The financial control started straight away but I was unaware of a lot of until we started to get a divorce. When we got married, I sold my home and together we bought a house but he didn’t put my name on the deeds. He said it was an oversight, he told me he had changed the deeds only to find out years later that he hadn’t.
He used his control over the money to ensure that I remained financially reliant on him and to try to keep me with him. When it was clear we were divorcing he stopped paying these bills and where possible transferred the bills in my name without my knowledge.
He has blocked me being able to pay an outstanding council tax bill so I would be chased by the council and threatened with court action. He refused to release the money to pay the bill, knowing that I could be taken to court and also run up additional charges. He did the same with unpaid parking fines he ran up while driving the car which is in my name, refusing to pay these so I’m chased for the debt.
During the division of assets, he refused to disclose information. I couldn’t access any money until a final agreement so I had to settle just so I could afford to live. I couldn’t hire someone to find the evidence I needed to show he had more money than he said. I did have bank statements showing large sums of money but since they weren’t in my name I couldn’t use them in court. I ended up with little more than I brought into the marriage and he ended up with close to a million in property and cash.
Today he claims he is penniless so he pays less only a tiny amount for the children. He refuses to give them any additional money for sports or extra tuition. Yet, he has gone abroad on four golf holidays this year.
He continues to try to interfere in my life and cause chaos. It’s very stressful and I’m not sure when it will end. We’ve been divorced for almost three years and still this man has a tremendously negative impact on my life.”
(names have been changed to protect the victim)
Coercive Control Behaviours during the relationship
Financial control while with partner
- Victim doesn’t have access to bank account
- Restrictive allowance
- Has to account for spend
- Restricts ability to earn a living
- Victim name is not on joint assets
- Creates repercussions for victim if they talk or meet with others *
- Not allowed to see or communicate without abuser present
- Alienate friends by being intimidating, rude, verbally or sexually abusive to family and friends*
- Controls contact information on mobile or computer * **
- Restricts movement
- Confiscating passports, driver licenses and other forms ID
- Keeping victim effectively under house arrest
- Only allowed out escorted or with some form of surveillance
- Forces victim to “check in”
- No access to money for transport
- Withholds keys to house or car
- Refusing access to friends or family
- Barring victim from leaving, house arrest
- Physically abusive* including: pushing, prodding, slapping, hitting, hrottling, strangulation, choking
- Using mobile or computer technology to monitor movement, conversations, contact * **
- Persuade others to report where the victim goes or what they say * **
- Use GPS tracking devices * **
- Install video or listening devices* **
- Isolating victim from friends/family
- Fear* of: Violence Retribution Hurting or loosing custody of children or pets Left penniless•
- Accusing victim of having affairs*
- Convincing either the victim or others that what they do is in the victims best interest* **
- Manipulating and turning others against the victims* **
- Threatening suicide to persuade victim to “save” them *
- Exploiting victim’s vulnerability*
- Telling the victim “they will never let them go” * **
- Threats to expose the victim either information, photos or videos * **
- Erosion of victims self-worth by:
- Persuading them that no one will believe them
- Convincing the victim they couldn’t cope without them
- Accusing them of paranoia
- Questioning sanity
- Berating – constantly criticising, scolding, telling them are doing something wrong, inept
- Belittling - telling them they are ugly, undesirable, stupid, weak
After the victim leaves abuser
- Phone, text, direct messaging or email **
- Social media either directly or leaving messages that indicate that he is still monitoring victim **
- Getting third party to deliver a message **
Financial control after separation*
- Non-payment of allowances
- Abuser claims poverty to avoid payments
- Not disclosing financial assets and/or delaying financial settlement
- Running up bills in joint names, refusing to make payments so company pursues victim
- Restricts ability to earn a living e.g. ruining reputation,
- Making vexatious complaints to police, housing, social services
- Using the courts to harass e.g. contact order breaches
- Making complaints against professionals supporting the victim
- Consistently showing up at the same place as the victim
- Following the victim
- Showing up to home or work place
- Criminal Damage
- Sending unwanted gifts
- Post personal information, accusations
- Revenge porn
- Reporting to authorities including: police, housing association, child protective services
- Uing family court system to punish victim e.g. custody hearings
- Use child access rights to maintain contact with victim
- Request information using parental rights from schools or GPs
- Make complaints to employers
* Also occurs after victim has separated from abuser ** Coercive behaviour using technology such as social media,