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Views sought on new offence of domestic abuse

The government has launched a consultation on proposals to strengthen the law by creating a new offence of domestic abuse.

The consultation, which was launched on 21 August and will run until 15 October, asks whether the law needs to be changed to reinforce the fact that domestic abuse can be emotional and psychological as well as physical.

The change could potentially help protect victims of abuse whose partners cause harm through long-term coercive and controlling behaviour. This could include threatening victims with violence, cutting them off from friends and family or refusing them access to money in order to limit their freedom.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Domestic abuse is a brutal reality for thousands of victims up and down the UK whose lives are shattered by the people closest to them. In the most tragic cases, it can lead to murder. That is why tackling domestic abuse is one of this government’s top priorities.

“The government is clear that abuse is not just physical. Victims who are subjected to a living hell by their partners must have the confidence to come forward. Meanwhile, I want perpetrators to be in no doubt that their cruel and controlling behaviour is criminal.

“We will look at the results of this consultation carefully in order to continue providing the best possible protection and support for victims of domestic abuse.”

Domestic abuse is currently defined as including non-violent behaviour, such as humiliation, intimidation or acts that are used to harm, punish or frighten the victim. A change in the law would aim to make this position more clear and raise awareness of the part emotional cruelty plays in domestic abuse.