Coercive and controlling behaviour - Is this real love?

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11 February, 2020

If you are a Corrie fan, you will no doubt be gritting your teeth or screaming at the television every time Geoff Metcalfe's face appears on your screen. Whilst Coronation Street is usually praised for highlighting real life issues in their story lines, many viewers have admitted that the coercive/controlling behaviour storyline which features Geoff Metcalfe & Yasmeen Nazin is too difficult to watch.

Since last year, Corrie fans have become increasingly horrified as Geoff has subtly tried to gain control of every aspect of his wife's life. Some examples of Geoff's controlling behaviour include installing cameras without Yasmeen's knowledge/consent; telling her what clothes she can wear; calling her fat and comparing her legs to 'tree trunks'; taking away her bank cards; convincing her she's an alcoholic and preventing her from seeing friends and family. He even monitors her time when she goes to the local shop! There is no doubt that Geoff's behaviour will only deteriorate as his need for control increases.

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. The rationale behind creating this offence was essentially to combat difficulties with case law in proving harassment within a family relationship.

An offence is committed by A if:

  • A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person, B, that is controlling or coercive; and
  • at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected; and
  • the behaviour has a serious effect on B; and
  • A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.

A and B are 'personally connected' if:

  • they are in an intimate personal relationship; or
  • they live together and are either members of the same family; or
  • they live together and have previously been in an intimate personal relationship with each other.

If we look at the law in the context of Geoff and Yasmeen, it is clear that Geoff is constantly engaging in behaviour which is controlling/coercive, they are personally connected as they are married and the behaviour is clearly having an impact on Yasmeen who used to be fun and outgoing but is now subdued and introverted. Geoff knows his behaviour will have a serious effect on Yasmeen which is why whenever others are present or when they are in public together he does not display the same behaviour.

Some examples of controlling or coercive behaviour have been highlighted above, however, other examples include controlling a person's ability to go to school/place of study, making threats either towards them or their children, monitoring a person using spyware and depriving a person from accessing medical or support services. The list is not exhaustive and can vary from person to person.

We are regularly instructed to defend allegations of this nature. It is vital that as much information and background is gathered at an early stage to assist with the preparation of the defence case. This may include requesting the disclosure of certain information from the Crown Prosecution Service such as telephone downloads, details of any previous incidents and CCTV especially where it is suggested that an incident had occurred in a public place. The taking of detailed witness statements from friends/family who were privy to the nature of the relationship would also assist.

It is a defence if it can be shown that A believed that he or she was acting in B's best interests and that the behaviour was reasonable in all the circumstances.

A person guilty of this offence is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and/or a fine on indictment (in the Crown Court) or for a term not exceeding 6 months and/or a fine on summary conviction (in the Magistrates' Court).

For more information contact Loretta Woollams in our Crime department via email or phone on 0161 351 5254. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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