A man has been jailed for ten and a half years for repeatedly assaulting and coercively controlling his former partner of 20 months over an extended period of time. This landmark decision marks the first time a jury has found anyone guilty of coercive control since the offence was introduced under the 2018 Domestic Violence Act (the “2018 Act”). The Defendant was also found guilty of intimidation, assault and 12 counts of assault causing harm.
The Facts and Decision
Over the course of a 20 month relationship, the Defendant subjected his former partner to repeated emotional and physical abuse including cutting her with a pizza slicer, head butting her in the face post-surgery and fracturing her arm in multiple places. The Defendant also threatened to send explicit images of his former partner to her family if she did not withdraw the charges. In addition, it was noted that the Defendant engaged in demeaning language and actions towards his former partner including specific incidents of humiliation, which amounted to coercive control. The accused also interfered with her relationship with her family and her access to seeing friends.
Section 39 of the 2018 Act defines coercive control as behaviour that is controlling or coercive, has a serious effect on a spouse, civil partner or person whom the controller is in an intimate relationship with and who is not related. That behaviour is considered to be coercive control if has a serious effect on the victim and causes that person to fear that violence will be used against them or causes serious alarm and distress that has a substantial adverse impact on his or her usual day-to-day activities.
The Court determined that the Defendant’s actions amounted to coercive control and while sentencing the Defendant to ten and a half years, remarked that the physical harm done in this case was “significant, brutal and cowardly”.
Putting the offence of coercive control on a statutory footing provides protection to victims who experience one of the most harmful and hidden aspect of domestic violence.