English Law Allows For Five Years In Prison For Spouses Who Engage In “Coercive and Controlling Behavior”

UnknownAn extraordinary English law came into effect this week that allows for five years imprisonment for spouses who inflict psychological cruelty on their other partners. Domestic abuse will now extend to “coercive and controlling behaviour.” The definition of the offense however is quite vague and the potential scope of criminalization is considerable. Indeed, a single episode of the Honeymooners would rack up a major case under the new Section 76 law from limiting funds to threatening language to controlling aspects of  spouse’s life. (Frankly, I never understood why Alice Kramden stayed with Ralph Kramden).

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders captured just how broad this law may be applied: “Controlling or coercive behaviour can limit victims’ basic human rights, such as their freedom of movement and their independence. This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving.”

It is a bit disconcerting if behavior that appears “playful, innocuous or loving” can land you in jail for five years.Some of the cited conduct included “preventing a partner from seeing family or friends, keeping them short of money, controlling their social media accounts, spying on their communications or determining aspects of their everyday life, such as when they eat, sleep or even go to the toilet.”

The proof can be circumstantial, including the use of emails and text messages, and bank statements that show an effort to control a victim financially.

A case will be actionable so long as the abusive spouse’s conduct had a “serious effort” on the victim, which is defined as causing “serious alarm or distress which has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.”

I do not question that there are form of non-physical abuse or that there are such marriages where spouses feel trapped or have been stripped of the ability financially to break away. However, the ambiguity of these terms allows for a disturbing level of discretion of prosecutors in picking marriages and relationships deemed coercive. Assuming that the victim was not physically prevented from leaving (since that is already a crime), the question is how to criminalize conduct that can be highly subjective or interpretive.

The law does require repetition but not much repetition to be chargeable. Controlling or coercive behaviour is defined under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 as causing someone to fear that violence will be used against them on at least two occasions, or generating serious alarm or distress that has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.

The question is how to draft such a law to get serious cases of psychological abuse while allowing sufficient flexibility for prosecutors.

Here is the full law:

Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship

(1)A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a)A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive,

(b)at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected,

(c)the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and

(d)A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.

(2)A and B are “personally connected” if—

(a)A is in an intimate personal relationship with B, or

(b)A and B live together and—

(i)they are members of the same family, or

(ii)they have previously been in an intimate personal relationship with each other.

(3)But A does not commit an offence under this section if at the time of the behaviour in question—

(a)A has responsibility for B, for the purposes of Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (see section 17 of that Act), and

(b)B is under 16.

(4)A’s behaviour has a “serious effect” on B if—

(a)it causes B to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against B, or

(b)it causes B serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on B’s usual day-to-day activities.

(5)For the purposes of subsection (1)(d) A “ought to know” that which a reasonable person in possession of the same information would know.

(6)For the purposes of subsection (2)(b)(i) A and B are members of the same family if—

(a)they are, or have been, married to each other;

(b)they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;

(c)they are relatives;

(d)they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);

(e)they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);

(f)they are both parents of the same child;

(g)they have, or have had, parental responsibility for the same child.

(7)In subsection (6)—

“civil partnership agreement” has the meaning given by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004;
“child” means a person under the age of 18 years;
“parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989;
“relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.
(8)In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for A to show that—

(a)in engaging in the behaviour in question, A believed that he or she was acting in B’s best interests, and

(b)the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.

(9)A is to be taken to have shown the facts mentioned in subsection (8) if—

(a)sufficient evidence of the facts is adduced to raise an issue with respect to them, and

(b)the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

(10)The defence in subsection (8) is not available to A in relation to behaviour that causes B to fear that violence will be used against B.

(11)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both;

(b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or a fine, or both.

What do you think?

66 thoughts on “English Law Allows For Five Years In Prison For Spouses Who Engage In “Coercive and Controlling Behavior””

  1. Karen
    ….the broad will need to be tots isolated for it to stick…no sides of her own. The sickening part is govt sticking its nose w here the sun doesnt need to shine. Let divorce ct take care of it. Regulating inside relationships is what thi s does,

  2. I was just kidding your honor. So if I tell my wife that I’m not going to cut the lawn if she doesn’t give me a BJ, do you think that would be evidence? Sometimes I think the lawyers/bureaucrats/zionists/oligarchs try to dream up stuff to see how we react and of course they torture some poor soul just for fun, to get their jollies. Obviously crap like this is absurd.

  3. Karl Marx dictated “Social Engineering” and redistribution of wealth.

    The American restricted-vote republic did not allow women to vote.

    Looks like the “meek” did “inherit the earth.”


    Karl Marx actually didn’t allow anyone to vote.

    The American Founders acted on the thesis of freedom and self-reliance.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.


    In 1789, Ben Franklin’s was a restricted-vote republic.

    Ben Franklin, 1789, we gave you “a republic, if you can keep it.”

    Ben Franklin, 2015 we gave you “a republic, if you can take it back.”

  4. Does this TRUMP the “Rule of Thumb?”

    “The ‘rule of thumb’ has been said to derive from the belief that English law allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick so long as it is was no thicker than his thumb.”


    “…In 1782, Judge Sir Francis Buller is reported as having made this legal ruling and in the following year James Gillray published a satirical cartoon attacking Buller and caricaturing him as ‘Judge Thumb’. The cartoon shows a man beating a fleeing woman and Buller carrying two bundles of sticks. The caption reads “thumbsticks – for family correction: warranted lawful!”

    It seems that Buller was hard done by. He was notoriously harsh in his punishments and had a reputation for arrogance, but there’s no evidence that he ever made the ruling that he is infamous for. Edward Foss, in his authoritative work The Judges of England, 1870, wrote that, despite a searching investigation, “no substantial evidence has been found that he ever expressed so ungallant an opinion”.

  5. Hildegard,

    .”English Law Allows For Five Years In Prison For Spouses Who Engage In “Coercive and Controlling Behavior”” I think we’d all be in jail. Am I right? 🙂

    Hear, hear!

  6. Meanwhile Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R TX) was recently quoted saying: “Rape is non existent in marriage, take what you want my friend!”
    So there’s that.

  7. What about women who threaten to kill themselves if their husband divorces them? Or who threaten to take their kids away? Threaten to tell their most embarrassing secrets? Withhold sex to get what they want? Go through their phone and email? As stated above, apply this law equally to men and women and it will be repeated tout de suite.

    They are being too broad with what should be a very serious, and narrowly defined, crime.

  8. I NEVER argue with my wife. Why? If I did argue I might win. Then I would REALLY be in trouble.

  9. Some more on the subject of men being more victims of typical abuse than women.

    Also bear in mind that most men will not report abuse.

    Harvard study says 70 percent of domestic violence is committed by women against men

    The Number of Male Domestic Abuse Victims Is Shockingly High — So Why Don’t We Hear About Them?

  10. Sounds fair enough – To discourage individuals from marriage is the greater thing as the basis for the law is rooted in the abusive behaviour common to marriage.

    Stay Single My Friends

  11. randyjet,
    If we are going to engage in a dialogue, you have to actually read my posts. I have no way of knowing what the outcomes or effects of these laws will be. And neither do you. Time will tell.

    The point of the law, as I understand it, is to try to move the legal lines regarding abuse back up the field a little, so that the police or judicial system can be more involved in protecting and serving the public BEFORE violence takes place. Period.

    I’m repeating myself one more time because you did not seem to get what I wrote a couple of times.

    I DO NOT know if it’s going to make a difference, And neither do you. I hope it helps someone by making it more apparent that less violent forms of abuse are still wrong, do not need to be tolerated, and are grounds for packing up and leaving. Perhaps delivering a message that the person had not heard before.

    If you think you can predict that it won’t help, then you are just expressing your FAITH that it won’t work. Let’s wait for the actual evidence and go round again.

  12. randyjet
    I certainly cannot show that yet. I’m hoping for a positive outcome from this dubious law that will help people, men and women, get out before things get violent. Too often it’s too late by then.

    WordPress keeps messing with my name…

    1. Philly, You need to explain just HOW this law will improve things. If the abused is unable to leave an abusive relationship with NO physical violence, then just how will that improve things when even battered folks still cannot do it? This law does not even touch that subject at all. The abused can come forward now with physical abuse or get a divorce. When you can show me some rationale for this law preventing physical abuse apart from and ABOVE the current laws, THEN you might have a case. You have only FAITH,and no rational approach. That is not the way to work or legislate.

  13. I enjoy this blog, lots of insightful commentary for a rather uneducated, shallow, narcissistic person like myself, to read and reflect on. Thank you all

  14. HumpinDog here: I could not live in a place like Britain where a dog has no right to hump.

  15. BitchinDog here: Dogs are a different breed than humans. We do not need any laws like this. I guess you humans do because you are so weak and weeny about life. Four legs good, two legs baaaad!

  16. There could be an interesting hypothetical in the United States: What if one spouse was a constitutionally oath-sworn servant (governing their work duties and authorities) and also took a marriage oath for their non-work hours? The unknowing spouse (private citizen) has no allegience to the spouse’s agency and that agency has no authority over over the spouse.

    It would seem to be blatantly unconstitutional for that agency to then use their employer to spy and tamper with the non-governmental spouse. Such a hypothetical would also betray both the oath of office and their marriage oath. Would such a person be trustworthy?

    Only Banana Republics do such things but could U.S agencies get away with it? Should the disloyal agency heads be severely reprimanded in such a hypothetical? What do you all think?

  17. Much ado about nothing. I can not bark at my dog spouse anymore. Not loudly. She has a device which is called “Bark Alert” which sets off a siren if my tone gets too crass or loud. When the siren goes off all the female dogs come around and start bitchin. Ask BitchinDog.

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