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Controlling behaviour by your husband addressed by new laws

Controlling behaviour by your husband addressed by new laws introduced in 2015 has been boosted by the police dedicating resources to training in this area of domestic violence, according to Cheshire family law specialist solicitors Stonehewer Moss. Accredited divorce solicitor Michael Brennan at the Northwich office has 25 years experience of handling cases sadly touched by domestic violence. He has found the release from the College of policing, that must be encouraging if faced by controlling or coercive conduct by your spouse when the marriage is breaking down. Michael remarks, “Since 1991 I have dealt with hundreds of injunction cases but can no longer offer this service with legal aid and a spouse subjected to domestic violence of modest income should always consider instructing a solicitor, ideally accredited by the Law Society or Resolution, to secure a non molestation order. If not available, and in any event, the new crimes related to controlling behaviour should now be policed correctly as a result of the training announced below. With police protection, you could then instruct a specialist solicitor of your choice to deal with finances in divorce and child arrangements if necessary. The courts are aware of the harm caused to children who witness domestic violence in the home. Please do not be cowed by a financially stronger spouse, there are procedures available to help give equality of arms to resolve the legal issues arising from divorce or separation. Controlling behaviour by your husband addressed by new laws is a positive move to be welcomed. “

The press release by the college reads as follows:-

Victims of coercive control are the focus of a new police pilot being run by the College of Policing to support officers to spot the signs of someone who is being controlled by their partner.

Coercive control may be the most high risk form of domestic abuse where perpetrators exert almost complete control over a victim’s life, leading to greater long-term physical and psychological injury.

In a first of its kind for UK policing, officers from three forces will take part in a College of Policing pilot which will focus their attention on dangerous patterns of abusive behaviour.

The pilot comes on the back of research which found officers may not recognise high risk patterns of coercive and controlling abuse because they concentrate on the facts of the incident they are attending, rather than the pattern.

When officers involved in the pilot attend incidents of domestic abuse they will be looking out for certain behaviours and dangerous patterns of abuse with a view to taking action.

College of Policing lead for crime and criminal justice, David Tucker, said: “We know in some cases of coercive control that violence is threatened in combination with surveillance and other tactics of intimidation which allow perpetrators to exert almost complete control over a victim’s life without recourse to physical violence.

“This pilot will assist frontline officers in identifying patterns of abusive behaviour and in particular it will help improve officers’ understanding of the risks around coercive control.

“We want to support the police service to be more effective in protecting people from the devastating impact of domestic abuse can have.

“We acknowledge the efforts of police and partners in tackling domestic abuse and hope this new tool will help focus attention on a form of abuse that can be less obvious but high risk.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: “At Women’s Aid we campaigned to have coercive control recognised in law, as it is at the heart of domestic abuse, and we are proud to be working with the College of Policing on the delivery of this training. 

“We warmly welcome this pilot to support officers in understanding controlling and abusive behaviour, and the subsequent review of how the DASH tool is used with survivors, to ensure there is best practice when supporting victims and recording information. 

“It is vital that officers have a thorough understanding of coercive control and consistent training available to them, so they are able to understand how domestic abuse perpetrators behave and read abusive situations accordingly.

“We also recognise that not all women experiencing domestic abuse decide to involve the criminal justice system, so urge all public services to follow their lead and improve knowledge, awareness and practice around coercive control and domestic abuse.”

This report forms part of a wider package of research that has been published today by the professional body for the police.

The research, which consists of seven separate reports, will support policing to effectively respond to domestic abuse. In particular, it has improved our knowledge of ‘what works’ to increase officers’ awareness of coercive control and ‘what works’ in policing to address the behaviour of domestic abuse perpetrators, alongside providing a better understanding of effective risk identification which has led to the new evidence based risk identification tool.

Officers currently assess incidents of domestic abuse using a tool (checklist) called the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour-based violence risk identification, assessment and management model (DASH).

Earlier this year the College of Policing carried out research with three forces to assess how DASH was being used following a recommendation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

It found DASH was not applied consistently at the frontline and sometimes officers used discretion not to submit a form. The report says police officers and staff acknowledged the value of risk identification and assessment, but there was frustration at a perceived mismatch between the current tool and the practical realities of frontline policing.

It concludes the DASH tool in its current form seems better suited to a domestic abuse specialist who may be able to build a better rapport with the victim.

Mr Tucker added: “Police officers and staff do tremendous work every day in safeguarding victims and bringing offenders to justice but our research indicates the risk assessment tools used by most forces could be more effective at helping to identify the most dangerous situations.

“The pilot will test how effective a different assessment will be in assisting frontline officers to identify patterns of abusive behaviour so that they can take effective action sooner.”

The results of the pilot will be released next year.

Michael is familiar with the DASH domestic violence questionnaire and has worked closely with Refuges and WomensAid in the past.

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