The consultation is to focus on whether there should be a new specific offence that captures patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour in relationships, aligning the government’s non-statutory definition of domestic abuse. The Domestic Violence Law Reform has welcomed this consultation and indicates a considerable support for criminalising these behaviours.
The Government defines domestic abuse as: “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.”
“Controlling behaviour is acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating and exploiting them; depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape; and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. “Coercive control includes psychological abuse, which cannot currently be taken into account by the criminal justice system before sentencing, and recognises the repetitive nature of most intimate partner violence.”
Recent statistics reported in the Crime Survey for England and Wales suggests that 30% of women and 16.3% of men will experience domestic abuse during their lifetimes. In 2012/13, there were 1.2 million female and 700,000 male victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales.
In 2010 the Home Office stated the four key areas of focus of the strategy were; the prevention of violence, the provision of support, working in partnership, and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice. Shortly after, the Home Office published an accompanying action plan, which has been updated every year since. Some of the recent policies the Home Office has implemented include the introduction of a new definition of domestic violence, publishing new guidance for reviewing domestic homicides, and the rolling out of Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (commonly known as Claire’s law) throughout England and Wales in March 2014.
In February 2014, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) concluded that the current police response to domestic abuse is failing victims and made a number of recommendations. There are a number of legal remedies for victims of domestic violence and abuse, including occupation orders, non-molestation orders, restraining orders and, now, DVPOs.
Victims of domestic abuse who meet the financial eligibility criteria for legal aid are one of the few individuals to whom legal advice is available through the Legal Aid Agency. If you require legal advice on Legal Aid or in relation to any of the legal remedies available to you in order to protect you or your family from domestic abuse, please contact us.