Statutory Guidance Published Ahead of New 'Coercive or Controlling Behaviour' Offence


08 December, 2015

On 29 December 2015, section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 ('the Act') comes into force. Section 76 of the Act creates a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships.

Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or familial relationship

The new offence requires the behaviour on the part of the perpetrator to take place "repeatedly or continuously". The victim and alleged perpetrator must be "personally connected" at the time the behaviour takes place and the behaviour must have had a "serious effect" on the victim. This is defined as having caused the victim to fear that violence will be used against them on "at least two occasions", or it has had a "substantial adverse effect on the victims' day to day activities". In addition, the alleged perpetrator must have known that their behaviour would have a serious effect on the victim, or they "ought to have known" that their behaviour would have that effect.

Ahead of section 76 of the Act coming into force at the end of this month, the government has published statutory guidance for people investigating offences in relation to controlling or coercive behaviour. The guidance was published for the benefit of the police and criminal justice agencies but it will also be relevant to other agencies involved in tackling domestic violence abuse.

A copy of the guidance can be found here:

Defining Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

The guidance explains that the cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse outlines controlling and coercive behaviour as follows:

  • Controlling behaviour: A range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

  • Coercive behaviour: A continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

The guidance also sets out a non-exhaustive list of the types of behaviour which may be associated with coercion or control. This includes isolating a person from their friends and family, taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep and monitoring a person via online communication tools. The guidance points out that this type of behaviour may or may not constitute a criminal offence in its own right but to remember that the presence of controlling or coercive behaviour does not mean that no other offence has been committed or that the perpetrator cannot be charged.

What Does This Mean for Registered Providers?

Registered Providers can play a significant role in tackling domestic violence and taking pro-active steps to prevent domestic violence, or certainly attempt to prevent further domestic violence from occurring, particularly in the context of their housing management functions. Registered Providers can take action against perpetrators of domestic violence under Part 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 to prevent domestic violence in the context of their housing management functions.

Section 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides that the court can grant an injunction if it is satisfied that a defendant has engaged in or has threatened to engage in anti-social behaviour. If the court grants an order under Part 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, the court can prohibit a defendant from entering a property or area specified within the injunction as well as prohibiting a defendant from using or threatening violence. Part 1 also gives the court express powers to exclude a person from their home in cases of violence. Additionally, a power of arrest can be attached to these clauses of the injunction in order to provide further protection to victims.

When the new offence comes into force, Registered Providers will need to review and update their policies to incorporate coercive or controlling behaviour into their approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour generally. This will ensure Registered Providers meet their duties of dealing with anti-social behaviour and dealing with crime and disorder on their estates.

For further information, please contact Bethany Paliga on 01772 220241.


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