Police And Victims Urged To Use New Coercive Control Laws
Latest figures from Police forces in England and Wales highlight a worryingly low number of people being charged under the new Coercive Control (CC) laws.
- Only a handful charged with coercive control in first six months of new law
- Government needs to raise awareness that new powers exist
- More specialist training for Police forces to combat coercive control
Three forces; Kent, Hertfordshire and Norfolk all reported prosecutions of 10 or more, but most forces have launched fewer than 5 Coercive Control actions between December 2015 and June 2016.
On 29 December, under the Serious Crime Act 2015
, controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships became a new offence, potentially attracting a maximum prison sentence of five years.
But although Citizens Advice
stepped in to help 3,000 victims of emotional abuse and 900 victims of financial abuse in 2014, take-up of the new powers to prosecute offenders has so far been low.Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Services at law firm Simpson Millar
, is calling for increased awareness and understanding of the new laws, so that victims can lead safer lives.
She says: "One of the biggest concerns when it comes to coercive control is that victims are not aware that being isolated from friends or family, having access to money and bank accounts restricted, or even having personal medical conditions revealed, is domestic abuse and, now, a criminal offence. With less than three coercive control on average per police authority, more needs to be done, so that people can involve the Police at an early stage – before coercion turns into physical abuse."
Some Police forces have yet to record a single prosecution for coercive control, since the new law came into effect in December 2015, including Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.
Emma suggests that more specialist training for Police officers could be needed: "Coercive control can be many things but, essentially, it comes down to people exerting control via a pattern of behaviours, and these can sometimes be difficult to spot from the outside if you don’t know where to look or which questions to ask. More dedicated training on the new legislation and how coercion can impact on a victim’s life might help push up the number of people who are identified as offenders, and prosecuted."
"Victims shouldn’t stay silent, but keep a diary of what might be abusive events and make a formal complaint to the Police as soon as they feel controlled or threatened by their partner or other family member. We know that coercion and control often leads to physical violence and it would be a shame if this new law isn’t used to its full effect."
Between 29 December 2015 and 27th June 2016, 16 nominals were arrested for Coercive Control in West Mercia, but none had been charged at the time of this request.
Q: Between 29 December 2015 and 30 June 2016, how many individuals in your Police Authority have been charged with ‘coercive control’ under the new law which came into force on 29 December 2015?
|Greater Manchester Police||9|
|West Midlands Police||4|
|Devon & Cornwall Police||1|
|West Mercia Police||0|
|City of London Police||0|