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What is coercive behaviour? Killers with a history of abuse to get tougher sentences

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab announced the reform will mean  ‘longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home‘  (PA Wire)
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab announced the reform will mean ‘longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home‘ (PA Wire)

Killers who have previously abused ex-partners will receive harsher sentences, under new law reforms.

The UK Government says that murderers who have a known history of coercive abuse and behaviour will be given lengthier sentences.

Judges will have to consider this history as an “aggravating factor” when issuing sentences.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab announced the change this week and said this would mean “longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home”.

He said a new Bill will go further to protect victims and vowed to implement longer sentences for killers with a history of coercive or controlling behaviour, and murderers who use excessive violence, while also reviewing sentencing guidelines for manslaughter cases where “rough sex” has been used.

The plans come after recommendations made in a review of domestic homicide sentencing by barrister Clare Wade.

It is not yet known when these changes will be brought in and the Government has said there will be more information on the changes by this summer.

What is coercive control?

Women’s Aid - a leading charity - says coercive control and abuse is an “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.”

By controlling their victims, perpetrators isolate them - meaning they only rely on them and their influence of control can get bigger and bigger.

How do I know if this is happening to me?

Perpetrators tend to start subtly and build their controlling ways. Some common examples include:

  • Isolating you from friends and family

  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food

  • Monitoring your time

  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware

  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear, and when you can sleep

  • Depriving you access to support services, such as medical services

  • Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless

  • Humiliating, degrading, or dehumanising you

  • Controlling your finances

  • Making threats or intimidating you

Is coercive control a criminal offence?

Yes. After campaigns from numerous groups, including Rights of Women, as of December 2015, coercive control became a criminal offence.

Your abuser will be guilty of the offence of coercive control if they are personally connected to you, their behaviour has had a serious effect on you, and your abuser knew or ought to have known that the behaviour would have a serious effect on you.