Domestic abuse, including emotional abuse, could soon become an offence in its own right for the first time in British law.
Draft legislation is likely to be put forward in Parliament later this month as a private members’ bill to change the law around domestic violence.
Conviction rates around domestic violence are low, but it’s known to be the cause of around 25 per cent of all violent crime.
Much goes unreported as many victims do not feel they will be heard.
Currently there is no offence of ‘domestic abuse’ – perpetrators are often charged with offences including assault or, in some cases, rape.
Campaigners are trying to change the law so that it recognises a pattern of behaviour over time against a partner and/or children.
The draft legislation says that at least two incidents of violence, threats or action causing someone to fear for their safety would amount to a “course of conduct”, allowing criminal charges to be brought.
The definition of abuse includes “controlling or coercive behaviour” which would “encompass but is not limited to physical, financial, sexual, psychological or emotional abuse”.
Many people who are subject to abuse are not physically assaulted but can be deprived of freedom, aren’t allowed access to money or are prevented from spending time with family or friends.
The draft law would define this as “controlling behaviour” and would include when a partner makes another person “subordinate”, “exploits their resources” or “deprives them of the means needed for independence”.
The offence would apply to abuse committed against any spouse, partner or former partner, regardless of gender.
Private members’ bills rarely reach the statute book without government backing. However, the team behind the new bill has a track record in obtaining similar changes in legislation around stalking and harassment.
Anyone wishing to support the legislation can do so by logging on to http:// forcechange.com/97821/ support-bill-to-make-emotional-abuse-illegal/