In December last year, controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships became a new offence, which can attract a maximum prison sentence of five years. However, a freedom of information request by Simpson Millar found that fewer than three coercive control prosecutions had been made, on average, per police authority in the first six months of the new law, and that 10 forces hadn’t charged a single person.
A spokesman for Simpson Millar said: “Coercive control is a widespread issue, evidenced by a review of 450 divorce cases carried out by Simpson Millar.
“The firm found elements of coercive control in 15 per cent of cases this year with partners being prevented from socialising with friends, seeing family members and even accessing shared funds featuring as the most common issues.”
In a bid to raise awareness of what coercive control looks like, and how the new law can be used to punish offenders, Simpson Millar and domestic violence charity, the Corporate Alliance, have launched a training scheme specifically for the police.
Lancashire Police has become the first force to invite Simpson Millar and The Corporate Alliance to present a bespoke session.
Emma Pearmaine, the director of family services at Simpson Millar, said: “Coercive control is a pattern of behaviours which have a significant and devastating impact on a person’s life. Sadly, we also know that coercive control is often the precursor to physical domestic abuse.
“This is why early intervention is so crucial; it can literally be life-saving.
“Coercive control is a debilitating issue for thousands of women especially, across the country. If the police are alerted and involved at an earlier stage of domestic abuse – before the abuse becomes physical and violent – they will save more lives.
“But the figures we obtained this summer suggest that the new law isn’t yet being used to its full effect.”