Tougher punishment for abusers a ‘huge step’ but societal shift still needed
- Credit: Archant
A domestic abuse campaigner has welcomed tougher penalties to address the long-term psychological and financial harm on victims and their families.
Min Grob, who held the UK’s first Conference on Coercive Control in Bury St Edmunds, said new sentencing guidelines for intimidatory offences signalled a “huge step” to understanding the intimate and intrusive nature of offences like harassment, stalking and controlling behaviour.
The Sentencing Council also published the first guidance for the offence of disclosing private sexual images – also known as ‘revenge porn’ – which was made an offence in 2015, but was not subject to clear instructions for dealing with perpetrators.
As a result of consultation, the council included an additional factor to show high culpability for “repeated efforts to keep images available for viewing”.
When sentencing for coercive and controlling behaviour, courts must now consider an aggravating factor of financial exploitation after it was highlighted as an effect when an offender controls the victim’s access to money.
Ms Grob said: “The new guidelines signal a huge step towards a greater understanding of the course of conduct for offences such as coercive control, stalking and harassment, and the various forms that they take.
“But we are a long way from the final hurdle, and to increase understanding is going to take concerted and continuous steps such as these, and a societal shift that recognises the harm of abuse that resides below the radar.”
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Under new guidelines, a high level of seriousness would be indicated by factors such as conduct intended to humiliate and degrade, persistent action over a prolonged period and significant psychological harm.
The guideline for stalking and harassment highlights factors such as planning, sophistication, persistence, and level of distress and psychological harm caused.
Aggravating factors include abuse of trust, sending violent or offensive material, and impact on others, such as children.
Judge Rosa Dean said the guidelines, effective from October, recognised and reflected the very intimate, personal and intrusive nature of the offences.
Ms Grob has launched a new online hub, empowersuffolk.co.uk, which aims to provide professionals with better understanding, while signposting support for victims and survivors.