New CPS powers to tackle domestic abuse

Topics: Criminal justice

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comments (9)
  • Save

Related images

  • Alison Saunders

Controlling a partner’s social media account or surveilling them through mobile phone tracking apps could see domestic abusers jailed for up to five years under new legislation that comes into force today.

The Crown Prosecution Service can, for the first time, prosecute specific offences of domestic abuse if there is evidence of repeated, continuous, controlling or coercive behaviour.


Director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders (pictured) said controlling or coercive behaviour can ‘limit’ victims’ basic human rights such as their freedom of movement and independence.

‘This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving,’ she said.

Controlling or coercive behaviour can cause someone either to fear that violence will be used against them on at least two occasions, or serious alarm or distress which has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.

Abusive behaviour can include:

  • Stopping or changing the way someone socialises
  • Limiting access to family, friends and finances
  • Monitoring a person via online communication tools such as tracking apps on mobile phones
  • Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless
  • Humiliating and embarrassing the victim

Saunders said police and prosecutors are being trained to recognise patterns of abusive behaviour which can be regarded as criminal abuse. When reviewing cases, prosecutors will be trained to look at the overall effect the controlling and/or coercive behaviour had on the victim.

Evidence can include copies of emails, GPS tracking devices installed on mobile phones, bank records, and witness statements from family and friends.

‘The consideration of the cumulative impact of controlling or coercive behaviour, and the pattern of behaviour within the context of the relationship is crucial,’ the CPS said in today’s announcement.

Prosecutors will receive CPS legal guidance and specialist training on the new legislation. The CPS said this would form part of its ‘extensive’ work on ‘wider’ domestic abuse, including a charging advice checklist for police and prosecutors, and an evidence-gathering checklist for police officers on the ground.

Readers' comments (9)

  • "CPS legal guidance" = "if we can possibly get it wrong we shall"

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Awww David put in a new comment after his other was removed yesterday, and this time he managed not to use the phrase "What a joke" three times in one paragraph.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What a joke!, Anon 10.18! You must work for the CPS. Interesting? I don't think so.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This looks like very useful legislation to allow a Court to assess the full extent of behaviour which has taken place in an abusive relationship. Given the massive success CPS has had in tackling domestic abuse in recent years this will hopefully go further to drive the message that such behaviour is not acceptable.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Great idea in principle but going to be a bit of a tough one to prosecute, given that, despite all that has been done in the last few years to dilute it, the burden of proof is still on the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
    As one who spent almost 30 years defending and prosecuting, I think I know which side has the best chance of success in the 'grey' cases where the poor old prosecutor in court is likely to be handed a half-prepared file with a decision possibly based on statistical pressure and fear of the victim's right to review.
    In the event of failure to get a conviction, the putative abuser gets a confidence boost and the putative victim feels let down by the system. Not a great recipe for success.
    I hope it works out better than it looks at present.
    Does anyone ever seek a remedy in the civil courts now or has that just become too expensive and inconvenient?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Philip, good to hear from you again. I heard the other day of a S London solicitor who did exclusively criminal defence work, but who now has become a comedian. He thought he had defended c. 1,500 accuseds. He asked each one if they had committed the offence and all admitted they had. He defended them nevertheless and got about 50% 'off'. That must be demoralising for the CPS and just goes to prove your point about the uneven-handedness of the system.

    I'm sure you will be happy to retire to the coast, Llan, or wherever.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Since when did the Crown Prosecution Service have a vested interest in our private lives

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Crikey.....the hysteria surrounding domestic violence reaches dizzying heights!Genuine domestic violence is of course a dreadful thing and damages society in all sorts of ways...however anyone who is a criminal solicitor will know the ridiculous way anything with a domestic violence "sticker" is prosecuted...without any judgement whatsoever.This is law gone mad,the state meddling in people's personal relationships when no actual offence has been committed.Is calling your partner fat a crime?What about if you try and persuade them to go to your family at Christmas as opposed to their's?Telling a slightly rude joke in front of their boss?Looking at the criteria above maybe....
    Good grief.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Given that in my experience the CPS cannot spot an abuser even with all the evidence in front of their faces, and choose to guess based on a majority likelihood they are right, this seems to be another law open to abuse that they lack the expertise, competence and professionalism to be able to properly prosecute. No doubt more innocent men could suffer at their hands, or should I say tick boxes.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comments (9)
  • Save


PM ‘hopeful’ over legal aid for Birmingham pub bombings victims’ families

20 October 2016By

Labour MP Andy Burnham asked Theresa May to intervene ahead of a fresh inquest.

Lions on railings outside refurbished Law Society HQ Chancery Lane

Mandatory child abuse reporting ‘not the right solution’, Society warns

20 October 2016By

Chancery Lane says family courts will struggle with increased caseload. 

Slaughter & May

Magic circle stationery thief banned from legal profession

20 October 2016By

Howard Hemley stole £3,000 worth of paper and stationery.


Sign up for email news alerts

Daily Update. Keep abreast of the latest developments that affect the profession

Legal Services

Browse the magazine

Current Issue

The Gazette offers you up-to-the-minute national and international news, opinion, features, in-depth articles plus a jobs and appointments section.

Please click the link below for a digital edition