The Home Office recently issued guidelines in support of the new Serious Crime Act 2015, which was passed on 3 March last year.
The guidelines, detailed in Family Law Week, aim to support the police, criminal justice agencies, non-governmental and voluntary organisations in the application of this legislation.
Controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships, as detailed below, is now classed as an offence which can attract a fine or carry a custodial sentence of up to five years.
Because of its potential ambiguity, it is important that the definition of controlling or coercive behaviour is firmly defined. To be convicted under the Serious Crime Act 2015, the perpetrator must have demonstrated this behaviour “repeatedly or consistently” and have been “personally connected” to the victim at the time the behaviour was taking place. It must have had a “serious effect” on the individual and must have caused them to fear for their safety on “at least two occasions”. Otherwise, it may have had a “substantial adverse effect on the victims’ day to day activities”. In addition, the perpetrator must have been aware of the potential effect their behaviour would have upon their victim.
The Home Office has listed seventeen types of behaviour which it would consider to be controlling or coercive:
- Isolation from friends and family
- Deprivation of basic needs
- Monitoring of how time is spent
- Monitoring person using online or technological tools
- Taking control of person’s everyday life and activities
- Deprivation of supporting or essential services
- Deliberate destruction of self-esteem
- Enforcement of rules designed to humiliate, degrade or dehumanise
- Forcing person to take part in criminal activity
- Financial abuse – restriction of money for basic necessities
- Threats to injure or kill
- Threats to a child
- Threats to reveal private information which would damage to person
- Criminal damage
- Preventing person from accessing transport or working
It is also important to note that this behaviour need not be restricted to the home environment, but can also take place through communication from a distance.