Controlling or coercive behaviour brought under control by new offence

The Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships. The new offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both.

Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. The intention of the perpetrator in controlling their family member is to isolate the family member from wider family, cut off means of independence and escape, regulate daily life and exploit resources for personal gain.

Coercion comes in the form of threats, assault, punishment and humiliation. These acts are not a new phenomenon and have featured in divorce petitions for decades. However the government at long last realised the need for recognition of such acts as criminal behaviour and a clear message has been sent by the introduction of this offence. A disproportionate number of women compared to men suffer from coercive and controlling behaviour.

Ipswich organisation Lighthouse provides a safe and supportive refuge, a domestic violence advisor and a range of community services to support women and children to rebuild their lives after domestic abuse.

Nicola Furmston is a solicitor and head of the Family team at Barker Gotelee.

Family Solicitors in Ipswich – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email