New domestic violence legislation has been brought into force in England and Wales with a view to providing more wide-ranging protection for victims. These important developments are designed to protect those victims who are subjected to repetitive psychological abuse by their partner rather than physical violence.
The types of abuse covered will now extend to patterns of threats, intimidation, humiliation and controlling behaviour. The government has provided a non-exhaustive list of the kinds of behaviour which will be caught by the new law. Below are some examples of the way in which the law has recognised the kinds of behaviour which can be damaging:
- Isolating a person from their friends and family;
- Monitoring their time;
- Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
- Taking control over aspects of their ever day life such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
- Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
- Financial abuse including control of finances such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
- Threats to reveal or publish private information;
- Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.
A crucial feature of this this new offence is that the behaviour takes place continuously and that it has a “serious effect” on the victim. It is also a requirement that the perpetrator ought to know the effect of their behaviour.
The offence could be committed by a family member as well as an intimate partner and will have a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment. It will also be possible for the Court to order compensation and make restraining orders where necessary.
If accused of the offence, the perpetrator can defend themselves by saying that they believed that they were acting in the best interests of the victim; however, this will be subjected to a test of reasonableness.
For further information please contact our family law team.