New domestic abuse law welcomed by region’s chief prosecutor

More powers to help domestic abuse victims. Library image.

More powers to help domestic abuse victims. Library image. - Credit: Archant

A new law targeting domestic abusers who use controlling behaviour on their victims has been welcomed by the region’s senior prosecutor.

The offence, which comes into force today, introduces a maximum five-year jail term and fine for the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour.

It relates to an intimate or family relationship, and could include humiliation or intimidation, regulating behaviour, isolating people and depriving them of the means to escape such as through access to money.

Jenny Hopkins, East of England Chief Crown Prosecutor and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) national champion on violence against women and girls, said: “Controlling and coercive behaviour is an insidious crime which can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on the lives of victims and I am pleased we have a new weapon to fight those who demonstrate this behaviour.

“The new offence is best understood as outlawing harm caused by a pattern of abusive behaviour and there is new legal guidance and training for prosecutors which makes it clear that it is not about isolated actions and does not infringe upon the dynamics of normal, healthy, relationships.


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“The legal guidance also provides practical advice on how prosecutors should approach this offence, including the types of evidence which might be relevant, and on understanding the behaviour of perpetrators.”

The new legislation means the CPS can for the first time prosecute specific domestic abuse offences .

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As well as the behaviour outlined above, offenders may also dictate what people wear, control their victims’ social media accounts, track them through their phone and limit access to friends and family.

To be convicted the behaviour must cause the victim to fear violence will be used against them on at least two occasions, or serious alarm or distress which has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, added: “Controlling or coercive behaviour can limit victims’ basic human rights, such as their freedom of movement and their independence.

“This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving.

“Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else’s rules. Often they fear violence or suffer extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

“This new law is a significant milestone in bringing perpetrators to justice.”

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