Coercive control law hailed by Derry mayor whose sister died after assault by partner
A mayor whose sister died from injuries she sustained at the hands of her abusive partner said new legalisation on coercive control will save the lives of other victims in Northern Ireland.
Mairead McCallion (36) died in hospital from a bleed on the brain days after being assaulted by her partner of six years in 2014 at their home in Omagh.
Her sister, Derry and Strabane mayor Michaela Boyle, said the new law had come too late for Mairead, but would help others.
This week Westminster agreed to extend the law in England and Wales to Northern Ireland, which means it will be a criminal offence to exert coercive control - including psychological abuse and non-violent intimidation - over another person.
Ms Boyle said: "My sister Mairead sadly didn't live to see the introduction of this legalisation.
"We didn't get the criminal case we would have liked, but an inquest held in 2017 found Mairead died as a result of the abuse she had received down through the years at the hands of her perpetrator.
"The coroner made a number of recommendations in terms of how victims are supported and how the police identify the signs of coercive behaviour. Mairead hid a lot of her abuse from family and even though we knew Mairead wasn't safe in her home along with this man, we tried to be consistent in our approach to her and asked her to consider a number of options, and one of them was obviously to leave.
"Mairead at that time was very vulnerable in terms of the abuse. He was coercive, controlling and kept her financially dependant, as well as keeping her too frightened of the outcome of telling us what she was going through. The natural instinct of any family is to rush in and fight for the person suffering but you know that that could bring more harm, frustrating and all as that is.
"The circumstances of Mairead's death were horrific and horrendous. She had actually sought help that night she was attacked and the help came in the form of the PSNI, but the inquest found there were a lot of missed opportunities by the PSNI and others.
"As a result, Mairead died a few days later in hospital and for us it was as a direct result of her injuries, although there were other complications.
"Hopefully this Bill will go some way to protecting others, particularly the high number of young people, teenagers, who are in relationships that are controlling but they don't realise it is not right for a boyfriend to say: 'Why are you wearing that? Who are you texting? Who are you talking to?'
"This is coercive behaviour and it will lead on to further abusive behaviour and horrific violence and robs victims of their self-confidence, their self-esteem and ultimately their life."
Ms Boyle, who has selected Foyle Women's Aid as her chosen charity during her year as mayor, has consistently highlighted the need for better protection for victims of domestic abuse.
She continued: "We need to put plans in place now to make sure coercive control is recognised and that all statutory agencies, charities and victims' groups do talk about this because domestic abuse is not just about the women who are being battered and sexually assaulted.
"It is about controlling behaviour as well, and you can be a victim of domestic abuse without ever being subjected to physical violence, but you are nonetheless a victim and are worthy of every bit of support available.
"This new law will criminalise coercive control and that will mean those found guilty will be held accountable."