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Controlling or coercive behaviour – boyfriend jailed for three years

Last week, a 20-year-old man was jailed for three years on two counts of controlling and coercive behaviour and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. A North London court heard how the man repeatedly beat his girlfriend and engaged in a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour. This included making her delete her social media accounts to distance her from friends and family, stopping her from wearing t-shirts and skirts and banning her from going out without him.

The relatively new offence of “controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship” came into force at the end of 2015 and was designed to enable the criminal justice system to address patterns of abusive behaviour over an extended period. Attempts to deal with such behaviour through the existing harassment legislation had proved problematic.

As well as achieving justice in individual cases, the existence of this offence puts down a marker that it is not okay to control another person’s life and that domestic abuse is not restricted to the use or threat of violence. It is encouraging to see a substantial custodial sentence being handed down. As family lawyers, we are all too familiar with behaviour of a controlling or coercive character. Many of our clients come to us financially disempowered, isolated from friends and family, and crushed into believing that they cannot make decisions on their own.

Making that first contact with a lawyer can be the first difficult step on a journey away from a suffocating and, at times, toxic relationship. Our top priority is the well-being of our clients and we look at the whole person to see what support might be needed for them to achieve independence safely. This can include obtaining non-molestation and/or occupation orders (sometimes known as “injunctions”) to protect clients from an abusive current or former partner. Once our client’s immediate safety needs have been addressed, we work hard to achieve the best possible financial outcome in a constructive, non-confrontational but firm way.

For an informal discussion with one of our family law solicitors, contact us on 0345-241-6666 or use the form to the right. 

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