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New government guidance on ‘controlling’ behaviour

The government has published new guidance on the implementation of laws criminalising controlling behaviour in relationships.

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act became law in October. This controversial piece of legislation made ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ in an ‘intimate or family relationship’ illegal for the first time.

The disputed behaviour must take place “repeatedly or continuously” and have a palpably “serious effect” on the victim, including a genuine fear of violence.

The new guidance provides an obligatory framework for enforcement of the law within England and Wales and is therefore aimed primarily at the police and other criminal justice professionals. However, it notes:

“The information within this guidance may also be relevant to assist the work of nongovernmental organisations and voluntary organisations.”

The ‘Statutory Guidance Framework’ outlines key principles for the identification of coercive or controlling behaviour, including relevant evidence and defences which may be offered by alleged perpetrators.

Read the full guidance here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. debbie says:

    Hi Marilyn, I was just looking at the government commencement schedule on-line and it still says ‘to be determined’ with regard to when section 76 will come into force. Although the guidance under section 77 has been recently published, I’ve found nothing that indicates that section 76 is in force. Can you help?

  2. Andrew says:

    Except to the extent that it repeats what is in the section this “definition” of controlling behaviour is of no legal force. Parliament passes laws; courts interpret them; government has no part in the process. If I am wrong can someone please say why?

  3. stitchedup says:

    Under evidence we have:
    “photographs of injuries such as: defensive injuries to forearms, latent upper arm grabs,”

    So if a woman is intent on scramming your eyes out, do not under any circumstances grab her arms to restrain her.

    This legislation is a complete disaster… It will lead to gross injustice and essentially gives a green light for women to abuse men physically and emotionally with impunity… Indeed this legislation amounts to violence against the male gender.

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