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Domestic Violence

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Warning over ‘Misuse’ of Domestic Violence Defence

Amendments made by the Government to criminalise coercive and controlling patterns of behaviour and psychological abuse in relationships have been welcomed by domestic violence charity, Women’s Aid. However, the charity has warned that the defence included in the offence could too easily be manipulated by perpetrators.

Women’s Aid is warning that the defence, which allows for control by a partner if the perpetrator believes it is the in victim’s ‘best interests’, will be used by perpetrators who already commonly justify their abuse to their victim and others as being in the woman’s best interest.

The charity is highlighting that the very nature of much psychological abuse is designed to ensure the victim believes they are in the wrong and the perpetrator is protecting or helping them.

“We welcome the new amendments to the Serious Crime Bill and the intention to criminalise coercive control. The offence is generally very well written, and captures the reality of the pattern of control and fear women experiencing abuse describe to us,” explained Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid. “However, the very nature of coercive control is that both the perpetrator’s and the victim’s perception of what is in her best interest are commonly distorted.”

“In a situation where the alleged perpetrator is also the victim’s carer, for example, we believe the only test of “best interest” must be objective, for example the opinion of a trained professional,” she added.

“We recognise that anyone accused of the offence should have the ability to defend themselves but we believe that this is captured in the wording of the rest of the offence,” she concluded. “We urge the Government to rethink the defence to ensure it cannot be manipulated by perpetrators.”

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