On 9th December 2015, the British government announced that the prosecution of Coercive and Controlling behaviour will come into power on 29th December 2015, addressing incidents in an intimate or family relationship where coercive and controlling behaviour used more than twice causes serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their usual day-to-day activities.
Domestic violence is an issue that cannot be neglected in modern day society. Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Physical or sexual abuse can be more easily identified compared to coercive and controlling abuse. Yet it is difficult to prosecute thus victims may not be as willing to seek guidance from professionals. In addition, due to the nature of human behaviour, these victims are also susceptible to social desirability bias, leading to invalid and unrepresentative statistics. Thus, I believe the incidents of coercive and controlling behaviour, which can be accounted as domestic violence occurs very often.
It has been recently reported that a law protecting victims of domestic violence from controlling and coercive behaviour has been used just 62 times in the first six months since it was introduced. This reflects that even law enforcers struggle to identify and prosecute offenders. This reflects that there is a potential problem with the feasibly of the English law in prosecuting domestic violence offenders who abuse their partners through coercive and controlling behaviour. Growing up in a community where domestic violence of any sort is seen as taboo and is not discussed, I hope to raise awareness of the intensity and immensity of domestic violence and observe the English law on prosecution and regulation through my dissertation.
The study of law especially the English law has always fascinated me as an aspiring lawyer, issues of injustice such as domestic violence unsettle me and in order to pursue such career, I must understand the legal aspect of the issue. My dissertation topic relates to my intention to study law and allows me to understand the legal system of England.
Through my dissertation, I will refer to the terminologies of the acts and frameworks used in the prosecution of Coercive and Controlling behavior to determine whether it is an effective addition to the English Law, in addition to present laws. Coercive and Controlling behavior mainly targets on intimate or family relationship according The Serious Crime Act 2015, the new offence aims to close gap in the law around patterns of controlling and coercive behavior between intimate partners or former partners who still live together in light of the violation of trust to protect victims experiencing repeated and continuous abuse which were not covered in Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. Key cases in the enactment of Coercive and Controlling behaviour will be discussed in my dissertation to exemplify the effectiveness of prosecution in different cases. As the legislation of the prosecution only came into power recently, scholarly articles on the topic is limited thus my dissertation will be primarily based on British Government documents and news articles.
1.1 Defining coercive and controlling behaviour
The terminologies of “Coercive behaviour” and “Controlling behaviour” are defined according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, 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.
1.2 How is a prosecution of coercive and controlling behaviour made?
In the “Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship Statutory Guidance Framework” provided by the Home Office of the UK GOV. The offence emphasises on the term “repeatedly or continuously”, depicting how the offence can only be considered if behaviour on the part of the perpetrator is performed more than twice. The framework also states that the victim and the perpetrator must have the relationship of being “personally connected”. The behaviour must have had a “serious effect” on the victim while the framework defines the effect to have caused the victim to fear violence be used against them in the future “on at least two occasions” or has had a “substantial adverse effect on the victims’ day to day activities, while “adverse” and “serious” have not been defined in the framework. The last important requirement stated in the framework is that the alleged perpetrator must have foreseen the circumstances and acknowledge that their behaviour would have a “serious effect” on a victim and that he or she “ought to have known” the circumstances and effects of their actions. The framework also states hat “The types of behaviour associated with coercion or control may or may not constitute a criminal offence in their own right.” The types of behaviour associated with coercion and control include, isolating a person from their friends and family, depriving them of their basic needs, monitoring their time, monitoring them through online communication tools (i.e, social media), taking control over aspects of their everyday life including where they can go, what they can wear. It is important to note that the presence of controlling or coercive behaviour does not restrict other offence being committed as other offence can be charged. However, the perpetrator may limit space for action and exhibit a story of ownership and entitlement over the victim causing their actions. The offence targets persistent patterns of abuse that occur over time in order for an individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.
1.2 How would the offence not apply?
The offence would not apply if the victim and the perpetrator were not “personally connected” at the time the behaviour occurred. As in such circumstances it would be considered as evidence that may bring charges under existing stalking and harassment legislation. Another exception is when the behaviour in question is perpetrated against a child under 16 by someone aged 16 or over who has responsibility for that child. This is because the criminal law, in particular the child cruelty/ neglect offence in section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 as amended by section 66 of the 2015 Act, covers such behaviour. The offence would not also apply if the behaviour is not taking place repeatedly or continuously, meaning it was a one time behaviour. Lastly, the idea of “serious effect” is being investigated, the behaviour is proved to not have a “serious effect” would be considered as well.
There are other considerations into whether a prosecution should be made including impairment, ethnicity, immigration status, fear of losing children, financial abuse, drugs and alcohol, LGBT relationships and forced marriage.
Controlling or coercive behaviour is primarily a form of violence against women and girls and is underpinned by wider societal gender inequality.
2. How is a prosecution made?
Victims of controlling or coercive behaviour may not recognise themselves as such. Therefore, it is important that the new offence is considered by the police and other authorities in attendance at all call-outs including those of domestic violence and abuse. Below is a checklist provided by the College of Policing (Authorised Professional Practice), as guidelines for prosecution body on their actions on arrival scene:
3. What are the cases?
3.1. Humberside Police V Sam White
The date of case is 2th September 2016, the defendant, Sam White (25) restricted the victim (21) on what she could or could not wear and performed many jealous and possessive behavior. She was facing serious assaults on a daily basis. Sam White was charged with section 20 assault, common assault and engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour. During the trial, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC “Any individual, in particularly a man in the context of the case, who seeks to control his partner in the way that you conducted yourself in this relationship, behaves not only in a reprehensible way, but commits a crime. That crime unquestionably calls for an immediate custodial sentence” His total sentence was 1 year and 9 months.
3.2. CPS Cambridgeshire V Leon Barrat
The date of case is 18th April 2017, the defendant Leon Barratt (24) assaulted the woman on a number of occasions and tried to control her actions during a three-year period beginning in 2013. After the victim has ended the relationship, he continued to contact her making threats. Barratt was charged with controlling and coercive behaviour, malicious communications, driving without due care and attention, driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and a public order offence. Detective Con Steve Ward said during the investigation, “Barratt subjected his former partner to a prolonged period of abuse, at times leaving her fearing for her life.” His total sentence was of 3 years.
3.3. CPS Lancashire V Zulfiqar Asif
The date of the case is 4th September 2017. Zulfiqar Asif (38) administered drugs to knock the victim unconscious before raping her and on several occasions, recorded the abuse on mobile phone. He was found guilty of rape, administering a noxious substance and controlling or coercive behaviour between 2014 and 2017. He was sentenced for 8 years in prison. DC Melissa Chadwick, who led the investigation, said: “Asif is a dangerous individual who manipulated a vulnerable woman and abused her in the most horrific way.
The above cases’ sentences are coupled with other offences but the maximum penalty for coercive and controlling behaviour alone would be 5 years imprisonment, a fine or both. In 2014/15, 92.4% of defendants in domestic abuse flagged cases were male. The proportion of female victims has remained steady at 84%, since 2010-11. Cases available to public has shown dominance in female victims instead of vice versa.
What determines “serious effect”?
What determines “ought to know”?
The theory of coercive control
Reflective, evaluation, extension work, how can it be useful, ideas for future work
Refer to presentation
Poster session (realisation)
Why I chose, a bit about the person
Reliable or not