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20 August 2014updated 23 Jul 2021 9:55am

Theresa May’s plans for writing a new domestic abuse offence into law

The Home Secretary is consulting on creating a new crime of domestic abuse.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Ministers at the Home Office are considering a new crime of domestic abuse, to specifically cover non-violent abuse in relationships.

The new proposals, published today, are designed to criminalise people who bully, control, or cause psychological harm to their partners. According to the Telegraph, jailable offences could involve humiliating or intimidating one’s partner, keeping them away from other people, or restricting their access to money – though the exact terms of the crime, which will be known as domestic abuse, have not yet been defined.

There are existing laws that cover coercive and intimidating behaviour, but this consultation, published by the Home Office here, is to seek views on “whether the current law on domestic abuse needs to be strengthened to offer better protection to victims”.

May commented that domestic abuse is “not just about violence”.

“Within every community there are people living in fear of those closest to them.

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“The terrifying reality is that for the most part these appalling crimes happen behind closed doors. We must bring domestic abuse out into the open and send a clear message that it is wrong to put your partner or your family in fear.”

Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid has welcomed the consultation, its chief executive Polly Neate pointing out that, “two women a week are killed by domestic violence, and in our experience of working with survivors, coercive controlling behaviour is at the heart of the most dangerous abuse”.

Although this development is a step forward for the government in defining and strengthening domestic abuse law, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has responded that, “Theresa May just isn’t doing enough to reverse the backwards slide in action against domestic violence or support for victims on her watch.”

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Cooper pointed out the cuts to refuge services under this government, and the falling number of prosecutions and convictions as a proportion of recorded crimes of domestic violence, arguing that, “May has repeatedly dragged her feet on action to tackle domestic abuse”.