New law targeting psychological bullies could see ‘coercive, controlling’ partners in jail for up to five years

Abused partners will also now have up to two years to report the crime, rather than the previous law of six months

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The Independent Online

Psychologically abusive partners will face a jail sentence of up to five years under a new law.

An amendment in the Serious Crime Bill has made “coercive or controlling behaviour” an offence with a maximum of five years’ imprisonment or a considerable fine if found guilty.

The law, which comes into effect on Tuesday, aims to reduce psychological bullying that includes extreme psychological and emotional abuse, even if it does not amount to physical violence, according to the International Business Times.

“Coercive or controlling behaviour” includes blocking your partner from accessing bank accounts, refusing to pay child support, and taking or hiding your partner’s car keys or passport to stop them travelling.

Abused partners will also now have up to two years to report the crime, rather than the previous law of just six months.

The amendment was made earlier this year but will only be implemented now that training and guidelines for police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have been put in place.

In February, a study revealed nearly two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in the UK.

Shireen Jamil, a former model who fiercely campaigned for the new law, told The Express: “This figure is unacceptable. But what we are not given is a figure for the number of women who commit suicide every week, due to not just physical violence, but the even more sinister abuse that has finally become a crime. And that is coercive control.

“It is very gratifying to know that future generations will benefit from getting the justice denied me.”

Ms Jamil, 60, was trapped in an abusive marriage for a decade in the 1990s that left her with permanent nerve damage, but only found the courage to report it in 2014, well beyond the previous six-month legal limit.

Her former partner was arrested but there could be no prosecution due to the limit, and a failure to obtain her medical records.

Earlier this month, national domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid launched a 'coercive control toolkit' to go hand in hand with the new law, in order to help parents of young adults and teenagers “recognise the signs of coercive and controlling behaviour”.

The kits provides guidance and information on this particular form of psychological bullying, as well as information on how to help.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Coercive and controlling behaviour can easily be mistaken for romantic behaviour, and our culture all too frequently reinforces this confusion.

“That is why it is vital that we educate young people and teenagers on what a healthy relationship is, and why parents must be empowered to spot the signs of coercive control.”