New law will help victims of domestic abuse

A new law will come into effect later this year in a bid to criminalise the patterns of coercive, controlling and psychologically abusive behaviour which often lies at the heart of domestic abuse cases.

The Home Secretary, Teresa May believes the new ‘coercive and controlling behaviour offence’ is a significant step in protecting people who suffer from domestic abuse.  It aims to help victims by making sustained patterns of behaviour that stop short of actual physical violence but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for committing this offence will be five years imprisonment and a fine.

Why is the new law so significant?

Last year a government report on whether the law on domestic abuse needed to be strengthened revealed that 85 per cent of respondents agreed the law does not currently provide sufficient protection to victims.  55 per cent said that a new offence was needed to strengthen and clarify the law on coercive and controlling behaviour and intimate relationships.

What is coercive or controlling behaviour?

Victims of coercive control can have every aspect of life controlled by their partner, often being subject to daily intimidation and humiliation

Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour could include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining minute aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep and even go to the toilet.

The definition will also include so-called ‘honour’ attacks, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and makes it clear that victims are not confined to one gender.

What do you do if you feel you are a victim?

Officials say there are a number of ways that the testimony of victims could be supported by documentary evidence, such as threatening emails and text messages, and bank statements that show the perpetrator has sought to control a victim financially.

If you have suffered some form of domestic abuse it is essential that you contact a legal representative as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you to file an injunction to prevent your partner making contact with you, or from coming within a certain distance of your home and your children. They will also advise you on how to gather evidence.

It is yet to be seen how this law will be implemented and whether it will provide a key culture change but it is a step forward in allowing victims greater protection from the police and courts. Access to Legal Aid could also be improved so more people can get the expert legal advice they need without the worry of escalating costs.

To discover more about how WHN’s dedicated team of solicitors can help you with your ordeal, call:


  • David McCraith at our Accrington office on 01254 236221
  • Tanya Magell and Karen Reid at our Blackburn office on 01254 272640
  • Kate Allsop, Emma Pike and Mark Taylor at our Bury office on 0161 761 4611
  • David Connor and Louise Daniel at our Rawtenstall office on 01706 225621