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Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate/Family Relationship

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force on 29 December 2015, thereby creating the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.

This is an either-way offence carrying five years’ imprisonment on indictment.

The Home Office has issued detailed guidance on the new offence.

A person commits an offence if:

(a) they repeatedly or continuously engage in behaviour towards another person that is controlling or coercive;

(b) At the time of the behaviour, both people are personally connected;

(c) The behaviour has a serious effect on the ‘victim’; and

(d) The ‘aggressor’ knows, or ought to know, that the behaviour will have a serious effect on the ‘victim’.

The section identifies which people are ‘personally connected’.

However, the ‘aggressor’ does not commit an offence under this section if, at the time of the behaviour in question, they have responsibility for the ‘victim’, for the purposes of part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the ‘victim’ is under 16.

The ‘aggressor’s’ behaviour has a ‘serious effect’ on the ‘victim’ if:

(a) It causes the ‘victim’ to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them; or

(b) It causes the ‘victim’ serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their usual day-to-day activities.

It is a defence for the ‘aggressor’ to show that, in engaging in the behaviour in question, they believed that he or she was acting in the ‘victim’s’ best interests, and the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable. However, this defence is not available in relation to behaviour that causes the ‘victim’ to fear that violence will be used against them. 

If you are being investigated for, or charged with, this offence, please call our expert team now on 01623 600645.

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