Controlling or co-ercive behaviour


The new offence of Controlling or Coercive behaviour came into force on 29th December 2015.

It differs from other relevant offences already in law because it is primarily (although not exclusively) aimed at couples in ongoing relationships. And is important to note that the net has considerably widened in terms of the type of behaviour which could now fall foul of the law. For example, certain types of controlling behaviour, such as isolating a person from their friends and family or monitoring their time could how to constitute a criminal offence. Both of these examples would not fit easily within pre-existing offences.


The Law

An offence is committed if a person:

1.   Repeatedly engages in controlling or coercive behaviour toward another person.
2.   The behaviour has a serious effect on the complainant and the offender knows or ought to know that the behaviour would have a serious effect.
3.   And the people involved are personally connected (in an intimate relationship, live together and are members of the same family or have previously been in a relationship). This is where this offence differs from what is commonly known as “stalking”.



A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable:


    • On conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both;
    • On summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or a fine, or both.



Controlling or Coercive behaviour towards another can include or be committed in conjunction with a range of other offences such including sexual assault, common assault and criminal damage.


Relevant Behaviours can include:


    • Isolating a person from their friends and family


    • Depriving them of their basic needs


    • Monitoring their time


    • Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware


    • Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep


    • Depriving them access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services


    • Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless


    • Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim


    • Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities


    • Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance


    • Control ability to go to school or place of study


    • Taking wages, benefits or allowances


    • Threats to hurt or kill


    • Threats to harm a child


    • Threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to ‘out’ someone)


    • Threats to hurt or physically harming a family pet


    • Assault


    • Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods)


    • Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working


    • Preventing a person from being able to attend school, college or University


    • Family ‘dishonour’


    • Reputational damage


    • Disclosure of sexual orientation


    • Limiting access to family, friends and finances


    • Disclosure of HIV status or other medical condition without consent


If you have been accused of an offence under these provisions or would like further advice please contact Nathansh@bsbsolicitors or