New coercive control law yields hundreds of arrests across Suffolk and Essex but just 27 charges
PUBLISHED: 17:01 03 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:16 03 December 2017
Just one in eight people arrested for coercive control in Suffolk and Essex since it was made a criminal offence have faced charges, new figures reveal.
A new law was introduced in England and Wales in December 2015 which made it illegal to abuse or manipulate a family member or partner in a way that causes them fear but stops short of violence.
In the 18 months from January 1, 2016, Suffolk Constabulary arrested 115 people for coercive control, but just 16 were charged with the offence.
During the same period, Essex Police arrested 102 people for the crime, and only 11 of those were charged, according to figures obtained by law firm Ridley & Hall.
Police chiefs in both counties say some victims do not wish to prosecute, either because of the “complex” relationship they have with the abuser or because the process would be a “challenge too far” in an already straining situation.
However, even when a charge is pursued, officers say gathering evidence can be difficult.
Detective Superintendent Eamonn Bridger, who leads in this area for Suffolk Constabulary, said: “Invariably the offences are often perpetrated ‘behind closed doors’ and as with all domestic abuse crimes the lack of witnesses and manipulation of the victim provides significant challenge when investigations are considered for prosecution within the Criminal Justice System.”
Mr Bridger said police actions would be tailored around the needs of each victim.
He added: “There has been more investment than ever before in training of professionals to identify domestic abuse and in the provision of support services.”
Essex Police’s assistant chief constable, Andy Prophet, said: “Unlike cases of violence, where someone is physically attacked, controlling or coercive behaviour is a hidden harm crime where the victim is ‘controlled’ by the perpetrator in other ways.
“For example, they could be denied access to money, loved ones or communication channels.
“As a result, the subsequent investigation can be complex and time consuming, as access to things like bank accounts, phone records or social media activity over long periods of time is needed.”
Suffolk campaigner Min Grob, who launched the Conference on Coercive Control, said: “The standards of the criminal court are very high, beyond all reasonable doubt, you have to be over 90% sure that this person did it.
“Now coercive control is invisible in plain sight, it’s below the radar, it’s very bespoke to the victim, and many people are not getting the fact there’s no one act of coercive control. All that and to get a conviction at all is amazing.”