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:

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.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is now recognised as the abuse which underpins domestic abuse. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim's sense of self, minimising their freedom of action and violating their human rights.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships (section 76). 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.


2016 Summary of all legislation relevant to domestic abuse, including coercive control: See link

Police and local specialist domestic abuse helplines can support anyone affected by domestic abuse to seek protective measures, using criminal and civil interventions.