New legislation on domestic violence will make it illegal for the first time in Britain to exercise coercive or controlling behaviour over an individual. This will cover behaviour to control the actions of an individual or partner that is not necessarily exercised in a physical way, such as emotional manipulation and financial control. Similar laws are already in place in the United States and resulted in a 50% rise in instances of domestic abuse being reported.
The law would carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine. Home secretary, Theresa May, spoke in support of the new law, saying that the behaviour of those trapping individuals in controlling relationships could be “tantamount to torture”.
While the nature of the law raises questions of how difficult it will be to find evidence and prosecute those guilty of it, it is hoped that it will help validate the suffering of domestic abuse victims and encourage them to come forward. It also closes a gap in legislation that police have said made it more difficult to successfully bring cases against those suspected of domestic violence. Moreover, home office officials have suggested that documentary evidence such as threatening texts or emails and bank statements will be able to be used as evidence for prosecuting suspects under the law.
Tragically, many victims of domestic abuse suffer in silence and struggle to come forward. Estimates put the number of women suffering domestic abuse at 1.2 million in Britain every year. Those who do come forward and report the abuse to the police have often waited until at least 30 incidents have occurred. This is especially dangerous for victims due to the escalating nature of domestic violence, which sees an estimated two women murdered every week in Britain by a partner or ex-partner. Male victims are especially unlikely to come forward due to cultural conceptions, with charity ManKind’s research finding that they are twice as unlikely as female victims to report to the police.
Polly Neate, of Women’s Aid, celebrated the new law as an important step. She commented, “we hope this new law will lead to a real culture change, so that every woman experiencing control can get the support she needs to break free safely.”
If you are suffering from domestic abuse, Beecham Peacock offers completely confidential help and advice. Our expert solicitors are very experienced in dealing with difficult cases and can provide you with the support you need. Just contact us today for immediate, essential legal advice.