New Definition of Domestic Violence – The Control Factor.

19 September, 2012

The goverment today announced that they have changed the “cross-governmental definition of domestic violence” to include coercive control. The new definition can be found on the Home Office website at

I have represented survivors of domestic violence for 20 years or so. I remember in the early days of my career, working in a small law firm in Croydon, one of the few towns at the time to have a police officer dedicated to domestic violence issues. He issued to clients and solicitors in the town a list of attributes common to perpetrators of domestic violence. Of course, I’ve long since lost that piece of paper, and the officer retired years ago, but I remember the one attribute that stuck in my mind was “control”.

I think every person with whom I have applied for, or considered applying for, a domestic violence injunction over the years (and there have been many) has identified control as a big part of their former partner’s abuse and that has informed how I have presented their case. Often I hear from clients who have long since managed to physically escape their abusive partner, but who still find themselves having to cope with controlling behaviour indirectly through children, friends or emails and texts or financial manipulation.

The law is a lot more helpful to victims / survivors of domestic violence now than it was in the early 1990s when I started my legal career. But I applaude any measure that raises more awareness of this terrible problem that still afflicts too many in our society and seeks to deal with it more effectively.

If you are interested in this topic then you might want to also read about the government’s pilot “right to know scheme” which is operating in Wales, Nottingham and Manchester at the moment. In some circumstances the police may be obliged to tell you whether they have concerns over who you have formed a relationship with. Is that a long overdue service that will save lives and prevent violence or a gross invasion of privacy? I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has come into contact with it.