A 24-Year-Old Man Is The First Person To Be Jailed For Coercive Control

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The Law Of... battling coercive control

After repeatedly assaulting his girlfriend on a daily basis – leaving her deaf in one of her ears – a 24-year-old man is the first person to be jailed for 21 months for coercive control since it became an unlawful criminal offence in 2015.

The Law Of... battling coercive control

In a follow-up to her previous article, Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Services, comments on how this landmark case will change the future of coercive control convictions.

Sam White, from Hull, Yorkshire, was recently handed a jail sentence of 21 months after it emerged that he had been subjecting his girlfriend to horrific emotional and physical abuse on a daily basis.

Instead of asking White's girlfriend to appear in court – which can be a terrifying experience for victims – the court came to their conclusion through a victimless prosecution.

A History Of Abuse

In the first successful conviction for coercive control, after the legislation was introduced in December 2015, White was charged for committing assault, common assault, and controlling and coercive behaviour.

The court listened to harrowing stories of White's jealous and possessive behaviour, including him dictating what his girlfriend could or could not wear as well as the incident that led up to his arrest.

"The night the offender was arrested, he had started slapping his girlfriend at a party", Detective Chief Inspector Phil Gadd commented.

"He poured a can of lager over her and continued the beating. That was when the victims sustained a perforated eardrum and we were notified of the incident."

Even when White's 21-year-old girlfriend managed to escape his confines and went to stay with family members, he would track her down and subject her to further assaults.

Identifying The Symptoms Of Coercive Behaviour

Victims of coercive control often fail to spot changes in their partner's behavior towards them, or are too scared of the consequences of confronting them. Some common warning signs of coercive behaviour include:

  • Isolating a person from their family and friends
  • Depriving a person of their basic needs
  • Monitoring or spying on a person
  • Taking control over their daily lives, for example telling them where they can go, who they can see, and what they can wear
  • Repeatedly putting them down through verbal abuse

As White stopped his girlfriend from wearing makeup, engaging with health services, and even doing her hair, as well as committing other abusive acts, there was no doubt that he was guilty of coercive control.

Cracking Down On Coercive Behaviour

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Gadd commented on the outcome of this case: "With the level of injuries, severity and frequency of the abuse, it was in the public's interest to progress the investigation, regardless of the victim's wishes."

Whilst handing White his sentence, the judge presiding on the case described his behaviour as "a disgrace" and told White that "any individual... 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."

Emma comments:

"The ruling in this case is a positive step forward for victims of coercive control, as it proves that the law will not tolerate this type of abusive – and criminal – behaviour."

"Coercive control doesn't necessarily relate to a single incident – it is identified as a pattern of behaviour that takes place over a period of time, where one person exerts their power and control over another. In this case, there was clear evidence that White had been tormenting his girlfriend, verbally and physically, ever since the early days of their relationship."

"Knowing the early warning signs of coercive behaviour and having the courage to come forward and report them can make a significant difference to the health and safety of a victim, and prevent the behaviour from getting worse."

"Victims don't just suffer from physical scars – they're often left with serious psychological damage to their self-esteem, confidence, and state of mind, which is tough to recover from. It's understandable that victims experiencing this treatment might feel apprehensive about coming forward and seeking legal help. But, it's important for them to remember that the law is there to protect them and those committing the crimes should face the consequences of their actions."


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