With the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, defining domestic abuse to include controlling or coercive behaviour,  it has become increasingly important for legal representatives to understand how to prepare both domestic abuse and private children cases, in a way which provides a clear understanding of the abuse suffered by the victims. 

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 has made it a criminal offence to exercise controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.  Examples of coercive control include, threats, manipulation, humiliation and gas lighting. 

Unlike other forms of domestic abuse such as physical violence, many victims who have experienced coercive or controlling behaviour find it difficult to distinguish and identify their experiences, making it challenging for legal representatives to prepare detailed statements and necessary forms.

There are now various devices available online which can help prompt victims to start discussing their experiences: DASH questionnaire, Cafcass’s “Assessment of Coercive Control” and the CPS’s Guidance on controlling or coercive behaviour.  However it remains important to remember that these may only provide a limited response, therefore you will need to ask for further details to gain a full understanding of the situation.  This may take time and may require patience.  Once you have obtained a full understanding, then you can identify the patterns of coercive or controlling behaviour and put these in a chorological order, displaying the nature of the abuse experienced.

It is necessary to include evidence of the coercive or controlling behaviour the victim has experienced.  These days this is most frequently evidenced through social media and message exchanges.  However it is important to provide context when using these as evidence to avoid creating a false account based on messages provided.

Once you have acquired all your necessary information, you must then make a causal link between these allegations and how they are to impact not only the victim but also any children involved as it is this link which will be the determining factor.

The Court of Appeal stated in Re H-N:

“31 [..] It follows that the harm to a child in an abusive household is not limited to cases of actual violence to the child or to the parent.  A pattern of abusive behaviour is as relevant to the child as to the adult victim.”

Throughout the process, the client’s needs and well-being must always be at the forefront.  Referrals can be made to other associations, to allow victims to have the necessary emotional support, legal representatives are unable to provide.


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