The Serious Crime Act 2015 received royal assent on 3 March 2015. The Act creates a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships (section 76). This means that on 29th December 2015 the new crime of Coercive or Controlling behaviour was recognised.

The new offence closes a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour in an ongoing relationship between intimate partners or family members. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.

This guidance is issued as statutory guidance under section 77 of the 2015 Act. A person investigating offences in relation to controlling or coercive behaviour under section 76 must have regard to it.

This offence is constituted by behaviour on the part of the perpetrator which takes place “repeatedly or continuously”. The victim and alleged perpetrator must be “personally connected” at the time the behaviour takes place. The behaviour must have had a “serious effect” on the victim, meaning that it has caused the victim to fear violence will be used against them on “at least two occasions”, or it has had a “substantial adverse effect on the victims’ day to day activities”. The alleged perpetrator must have known that their behaviour would have a serious effect on the victim, or the behaviour must have been such that he or she “ought to have known” it would have that effect.

Controlling or coercive behaviour should be dealt with as part of adult and/or child safeguarding and public protection procedures.

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