Domestic violence will now include mental torment too and laws will be applied to those aged under 18
Current definition taken to refer to physical violence but police will now be expected to act over partners who abuse their partners in a ''controlling'' fashion
Men who bully their partners by verbally abusing them, taking control of their finances or isolating them from friends and family are guilty of domestic violence and could be prosecuted, ministers will say tomorrow.
In a dramatic shake-up, details of which have been leaked to the Mail, the definition of domestic abuse is to be widened to encompass a wide range of coercive or threatening behaviour.
At the moment, domestic abuse is generally taken to refer to acts of physical violence. But police and prosecutors will be expected to use the new definition when identifying and monitoring cases, meaning men who abuse partners in a ‘controlling’ fashion could face charges too.
It will also be applied to those under 18 for the first time as concerns grow that increasing numbers of teenage girls are the victims of abusive relationships.
There has never been a specific criminal offence of domestic violence. Instead, ministers agreed a definition in 2004 that refers to ‘incidents of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse’. The Government is concerned that the police and other agencies are not applying this broadly enough.
The Centre for Social Justice, a think-tank set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, has led calls for ‘coercive control’ to be included in official definitions of domestic abuse, and wants to see prosecutions even if no physical harm has been caused.
The new definition will not be written into law, however, as the CSJ has proposed. Instead it will be broadened to define domestic violence as ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality’.
A source said: ‘This isn’t about people having a row and shouting. It’s about people’s whole lives being controlled, whether that’s not being allowed a bank account, access to a phone or to leave the house.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Home Secretary Theresa May will say this can encompass ‘psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional’ control. Mrs May has described domestic violence as ‘a particularly dreadful form of abuse’.
The definition will include so-called ‘honour’ attacks, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and make it clear that victims are not confined to one gender. According to recent Home Office statistics, 7 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men reported that they had experienced domestic violence.
Whitehall sources insisted the law would not change as a result of the reform, but said police and prosecutors would use the new definition.
‘Even though non-statutory, the change is supposed to influence public-sector bodies,’ one said.
‘You wouldn’t be prosecuted for coercive control, just as you wouldn’t be prosecuted for domestic violence, because neither of them are criminal offences. But if coercive control amounted to harassment, then you could be prosecuted for that. We hope to raise awareness that domestic violence and abuse does not just encompass physical abuse but can also include coercion and control.’
''We hope to raise awareness that domestic violence and abuse does not just encompass physical abuse but can also include coercion and control'' - Whitehall source
Prosecutions for domestic abuse in Britain more than doubled from 35,000 in 2005 to 74,000 in 2010, and the conviction rate increased from 46 per cent to 72 per cent.
Last year, according to the Home Office, there were more than one million female victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales, with domestic violence accounting for 18 per cent of all violent incidents.
Diana Barran, of the charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, said extreme levels of control, rather than physical violence, were probably the most common precursor to domestic killings.
‘People are completely controlled in all their daily activities, prevented from taking medication, prevented from seeing friends, controlled in what they wear, who they talk to, literally on every single level.’
I can`t for the life of me think why it didn''t include under 18s and honour attacks to start with, will any of the rest change, i doubt it.
The county force where i live has 10% less officers than two years ago, overtime cut ect, if they wont come out after a burglary will they have time to investigate coercive behaviour, the courts are in even worse shape which will only get so much worse once legal aid is withdrawn.
I just have everything crossed that in my case with the evidence that has gone to court that DV and mental abuse is recognised in civil courts as DV is a reason why people need to escape from marriage.
I do know that in family proceedings Lord Justice Thorpe has been on record saying that mental abuse is one of the worst types of DV and I think a lot of posters on here including me agree.
I do agree with Dukey though on the Police force being under so much pressure that in reality it is going to be hard for the Police to enforce - I think it must be hard as well for a Police officer to work out whether an allegation of mental abuse is an abuse in itself - so much easier if you have a black eye or a broken bone as evidence of violence.
I have been told that emotional, mental and psychological abuse is difficult to prove therefore nothing can be done about it other than walking away from it.
How on earth do you prove to Courts and the Police something like this?
Often psychological abuse can go hand in hand with physical violence in which case it is possible but you need witnesses.
In reality you don''t get witnesses when the abuse occurs at home.
There is a very big concern in all this.
Many cannot do anything about it as they are so frightened.
What if the victim of DA approaches the police and nothing is done about it due to insufficient evidence, it would then put that vicitm under more risk.
There is no one who is watching the tactics and no one intervenes. Many cases of severe mental and emotional abuse leaves the victim to not even recognise that they are in an abusive relationship.
The definition is good and all this is great.
But in reality, what does it really mean? What can be done? What proof is needed? And what is the outcome likely to be? When is it too late to involve people and who are these people who carry weight and the Law recognises?
Like I said, I was told just to walk away from it.