Is abusive behaviour a crime?
Currently there is no single crime of domestic violence/abuse. However, individual activities and behaviours may constitute an offence recognised by the police and courts. These may include:
- Rape/Sexual assault
- Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)
- Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
- Threats to kill
- Stalking and Harassment
- Criminal damage to property
- Forced Marriage
- Putting the victim in fear of violence
- Coercive Control
Where such criminal offences are identified, the police can arrest, caution or charge a perpetrator. It is therefore important to report domestic abuse related incidents to the police in order to assist them build the evidence needed to safeguard those affected and hold perpetrators accountable. The police remain a key 24 hour agency and the first port of call in an emergency.
On December 5th 2015, the Home Office announced new legislation which recognises and criminalises subtle and escalating patterns of control which are the foundation of physical violence. Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created the new offence of using controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.
Control is often maintained by threat and innuendo, with violence used to reinstate or remind the victim of the rules to which they are subject. The offence came into force on 29th December 2015 and addresses the cumulative impact of a pattern of abuse which results in fear of violence on at least two occasions; or serious alarm or distress to the extent that it has a substantial adverse effect on someone's usual day-to-day activities.
Police and local specialist domestic abuse helplines can support anyone affected by domestic abuse to seek protective measures, using criminal and civil interventions.