Coercive Control – An Under-reported Crime

On the first anniversary of the offence of coercive control (29th December) Cleveland Police has confirmed that it is very much an under-reported issue.

In contrast to other forms of domestic abuse, coercive control does not usually mean physical or sexual violence against a partner but it could include someone stopping their partner or family member from socialising, limiting access to their family, friends or finances or monitoring a victim’s online and social media activity.

Nationally the CPS is reporting fewer than a dozen successful prosecutions since the offence of ‘coercive or controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’ came into force.

Cleveland was the first force in the north-east to charge a man with the offence (against his female partner) and he received a 12 month jail sentence in June 2016.

Detective Inspector Dave Snaith, from Cleveland Police’s Domestic Abuse Unit, said: “The nature of the offence makes it difficult for victims to come forward and they can be frightened of the consequences if they do.

“Our officers are briefed to be alert to evidence of controlling behaviour. Sometimes even victims may not realise the full extent of the manipulation.

“Essentially perpetrators have all the power in a relationship and cause victims to live in fear and worry of their behaviour. Perpetrators may not be physically violent but the emotional abuse is equally damaging.”

In Cleveland between December 2015 and June 2016 there were 682 domestic abuse crimes recorded which resulted in a charge. Fewer than 10 charges of coercive control have been made to date.

DI Snaith added: “This new offence provides victims of domestic abuse with more protection. It can help those who are being tortured in their daily lives and break cycles of abuse that have lasted for years.”

The maximum penalty for controlling/coercive behaviour is five years’ imprisonment and a fine.