Belfast Telegraph

Westminster to make 'coercive control' a criminal offence in Northern Ireland

Coercive control is to become a criminal offence in Northern Ireland (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Coercive control is to become a criminal offence in Northern Ireland (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Legislation to protect domestic abuse victims from "coercive control" is to be extended to Northern Ireland.

Coercive control includes psychological abuse and non-violent intimidation and has been a crime in England and Wales since 2015 but not in Northern Ireland due to the lack of a functioning government.

Provisions to make coercive control an offence in Northern Ireland will be included in Westminister's Domestic Abuse Bill on Tuesday.

The PSNI report that there is around 30,000 incidents of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland each year.

Ex-Stormont justice minister Claire Sugden said it was her "biggest regret" of the Stormont collapse that she was not able to get domestic abuse law onto statute during her time as minister.

"Coercive control is constructed through psychological abuse," she said. 

"It’s usually the reason why victims don’t just leave and also the beginning of physical violence.  An accurate description is feeling like always ‘walking on eggshells’."

Claire Sugden

Ms Sugden said the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has confirmed that on Tuesday Westminster will extend their legislation to Northern Ireland to ensure that coercive control becomes a criminal offence in the province.

"We are the last regions of these islands where perpetrators can now be prosecuted for a coercive control offence," she said.

"I would prefer that a functioning Northern Ireland Executive create this law because there are other elements in the NI version which cannot be taken through Westminster at this time.  We are, however, long past wishing for an Executive to uphold their responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland; long past allowing victims to continue to suffer.  The time was yesterday, but I’m pleased it’s today. 

"I dedicate this outcome to survivors of domestic abuse.  It’s their honesty of horrific experiences and their strength telling their stories that will hopefully stop others becoming victims.  They have started the journey of eradicating domestic abuse in Northern Ireland.  Thank you so much.”

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