23 Nov 2014

Emotional abuse ‘set to become a criminal offence’

Theresa May is expected to unveil plans to make psychological and emotional abuse a criminal offence with a lengthy prison term, according to reports.

Emotional abuse

The new law on domestic violence would make it illegal for someone to exercise ‘coercive control’ over their partner.

The proposals, which could find those guilty facing a maximum 14 years in prison, will be unveiled by the government this week.

Campaigners have long called for a change in the law to put psychological exploitation on a par with physical violence, in the hope it will encourage more victims to come forward and report abuse in the home.

‘Lack of enforcement’

Responding to the news, Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “We have called for Theresa May to strengthen the law on domestic violence for some time, so I hope these suggested measures make a difference.

Under Theresa May the clock is being turned back on violence against women Yvette Cooper

“However the government is still doing too little to enforce the present law, where the proportion of domestic violence cases reaching prosecution or conviction is falling, even though reported cases are going up. Under Theresa May domestic violence courts and refuges are closing and specialist domestic violence police officers are being cut.

“Unfortunately despite the measures being briefed today, under Theresa May the clock is being turned back on violence against women.”

‘Gap in legislation’

The chief executive of charity Women’s Aid said there was currently a “gap in legislation”. Polly Neates said: “Domestic violence is primarily a pattern of abuse, not a singular incident. Yet due to the gap in legislation, police officers are currently forced to focus on individual acts of physical violence.

“An offence which recognises repeated controlling abuse and the harm caused to victims must be created must be created to equip the police to do their job effectively and better protect victims of domestic abuse.”