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Commissioner Welcomes New Domestic Violence Offence

19th December 2014

Vera Baird has welcomed the Home Secretary’s announcement that there is to be a new criminal offence of domestic abuse which will carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison as well as a fine.

The offence will be based on criminalising coercive controlling behaviour which underpins much domestic abuse.

However, the Commissioner is keen to know the practical details of how the offence will be framed so that it can be effective. She said: “This should help police and the criminal justice agencies to understand that while much domestic abuse involves violent acts, it is not those alone which are the problem.

“We need to focus on all forms of domestic abuse which include extreme psychological and emotional abuse. The perpetrator wants to control every aspect of their victim’s life and can subject them to daily intimidation and humiliation.”

Coercive control can include excessive jealousy, isolating a partner from family and friends, controlling what they wear, depriving them of sleep and making threats.

“This can go on for many years and leave victims seriously undermined and afraid, fearing for their safety and sometimes even their lives and those of their children,” the Commissioner added.

Mrs Baird said the new law needs to be well-drawn in order to be effective

“While any move to help protect vulnerable victims and bring them to a pathway to safety, is a move in the right direction, the details of how it is going to be done have to be right and this involves practical help and advice.”

Northumbria Police had already planned to begin training officers about coercive control at the start of the new year and the Chief Constable and Mrs Baird will be on the first course to demonstrate leadership and make clear that the issue is of high importance

“We’ve drawn up a course that officers and partners have worked closely on. Joint working is in place to ensure that voluntary sector partners, who offer support and guidance to victims and have years of expertise to contribute, are fully involved as we go forward.”