Now Domestic Violence Will Include Mental Torment Too

Article excerpt

Byline: James Chapman Political Editor

MEN who bully their partners by verbally abusing them, taking control of their finances or isolating them from friends and family are guilty of domestic violence and could be prosecuted, ministers will say tomorrow.

In a dramatic shake-up, details of which have been leaked to the Mail, the definition of domestic abuse is to be widened to encompass a wide range of coercive or threatening behaviour. At the moment, domestic abuse is generally taken to refer to acts of physical violence. But police and prosecutors will be expected to use the new definition when identifying and monitoring cases, meaning men who abuse partners in a 'controlling' fashion could face charges too. It will also be applied to those under 18 for the first time as concerns grow that increasing numbers of teenage girls are the victims of abusive relationships.

There has never been a specific criminal offence of domestic violence.

Instead, ministers agreed a definition in 2004 that refers to 'incidents of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse'. The Government is concerned that the police and other agencies are not applying this broadly enough.

The Centre for Social Justice, a think-tank set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, has led calls for 'coercive control' to be included in official definitions of domestic abuse, and wants to see prosecutions even if no physical harm has been caused.

The new definition will not be written into law, however, as the CSJ has proposed. Instead it will be broadened to define domestic violence as 'any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality'. A source said: 'This isn't about people having a row and shouting. It's about people's whole lives being controlled, whether that's not being allowed a bank account, access to a phone or to leave the house. …