New Domestic Violence Laws To Protect Against Coercive & Controlling Behaviour

Whenever laws about domestic violence and domestic abuse are tightened, there will always be some people who feel that the revisions don’t go far enough, while there will be an equally vocal group arguing that the laws are too strict. Some will even question the need for having domestic violence laws at all, since violence of nearly every kind is already prohibited.

New law has recently been announced, dealing with the very complicated issue of “coercive and controlling behaviour”. The reason why this is complicated is because it can be very difficult to define exactly where the line gets crossed, and the possibility is wide open for the new rules to be improperly interpreted or abused by those wanting to “up the stakes” in a separation. It highlights a need for people to be very careful about how their conduct could be seen by others, and there can be situations where an independent observer might feel that a certain action that has been taken is abusive when, in fact, it is something that is mutually consensual between the parties involved.

As always, there is a heavy-handed implication from nearly everyone with something to say on the subject. The most common perception is that this is a crime perpetrated by males against females, when in fact anyone in any kind of relationship could be either an abuser or a victim, regardless of age, gender, or the type of relationship between the individuals. Thus, it is quite possible for a female to use coercive and controlling behaviour against a male, similar problems can exist in gay and lesbian relationships, and even parental relationships can be potentially included.

In the latter case, you can probably already see how that could shape up to grow into a very awkward situation. This quote from an article on this topic in the Independent unwittingly illustrates the concept thusly:

“Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining tiny aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep, and go to the toilet.”

In other words, what just about every responsible parent on the planet does with their kids for the vast majority of their juvenile years. Though obviously the law is not intended to be used against parents in this way, it is clear that it could be, in the right circumstances, and where the child in question has the sheer audacity to attempt it. Then there is the flip side of this situation, which is that sometimes it is the child who is the abuser, and the parent who is on the receiving end.

Adults, too, are sometimes abusive and controlling towards their elderly parents, and it is by no means a rare occurrence. These scenarios deserve equal attention in the enforcement of the law, and also in the public awareness, by comparison with the image that most people imagine of a controlling husband abusing his wife. Based on official statements that have been made in the past, it seems unlikely that anything will be done to that effect, and the traditional clichéd view of domestic abuse will persist. Certainly quotes in the media tend to push that angle, missing a great opportunity to raise awareness that domestic abuse takes many forms and is present in many different types of relationships.

This could mean that some existing situations of domestic abuse could be ignored until they become so serious and blatant that it is impossible to ignore. The possibility is also there for innocent people to be accused of being abusive, when in fact a range of personal circumstances could merely be creating a stereotypical impression.

The new law comes with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years, so it is important to make sure that people are prosecuted appropriately and that unjust convictions are avoided. While the new laws are not flawless, they are a welcome addition to official legislation provided that the laws will be properly and impartially enforced.

Those who are tasked with enforcing the law, or assisting people who need help, must be provided with suitable training to enable them to identify possibly abusive situations, and the awareness that they must be above thinking in stereotypes. Investigators should avoid “coaching” suspected abuse victims towards supporting a prematurely conceived notion that the investigator has developed. There is no excuse for a lazy investigation that does not examine all of the circumstances thoroughly before conclusions are drawn.

To learn more about the new laws and how they may affect you for better or for worse, you can visit the official UK Government legislation website and this brochure.

The Hylton-Potts legal team can help with all kinds of legal problems, so give us a call on 020 7381 8111 or send an email to [email protected] for confidential advice.

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