Published: 25 November 2014
Home Secretary Theresa May is due to unveil changes to domestic abuse laws this week, which will give the police the power to treat emotional and psychological abuse on the same level of prosecution as domestic violence.
The new law, currently being introduced as part of the Serious Crime Bill, is expected to come in to force in the New Year and means that any person found guilty of 'coercive control' over a partner or family member could be faced with jail time of up to 14 years.
There will also be no statutory time limit on offences, so guilty parties could be prosecuted for abuse dating back years for offences previously committed.
Many women's rights charities and campaigners have spoken out against current legislation as whilst the government recognises the impact of emotional and psychological abuse, it has been extremely difficult to use it as evidence due to loop holes in the law, leaving the police often frustrated and powerless to stop certain situations of domestic abuse before it is too late.
Women's Aid have reported that under 10% of incidents of domestic violence filed with the police actually result in a police conviction and 25% of cases that end up with the Crime Prosecution Service don't result in any further action.
With the proposed changes to the law, it is hoped that more victims of 'coercive control' will come forward and report their abuse, before the abuse escalates and becomes physical. 'Coercive control' can be classed as threatening or controlling behaviour, where by a person has their personal or financial freedom restricted.
It is estimated that each year, almost 1.2 million women are victims of some form of domestic abuse at the hands of their partner, yet many suffer in silence as they believe that they won't be taken seriously or be protected by the law - unless the abuse is physical. With an average of two women murdered by a current or former partner in Britain every week, it is often too late to come forward, which is why the news of this new law should come as a relief to many victims who are too frightened to report their situation.
In the United States, a similar law was introduced some years ago and it led to an increase in the number of women reporting emotional and psychological abuse by 50%.
Elfyn Llwyd, an MP who introduced the new bill on coercive control earlier this year said, "Following the Home Office's consultation upon the issue it is clear that there is a real and urgent need for this change in the law which will effectively underpin the definition of domestic violence adopted by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which already includes coercive control."
"It is a fact that for every single act of abuse or violence there are usually thirty or more previous occurrences which have not been the subject of any reporting."
"Coercive behaviour can be as insidious and as damaging as physical violence and this must be recognised in law."
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. We will advise and act on your behalf to protect you and your family and ensure that you are given the help and support you need. To arrange a free consultation with one of our team, call us today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).