Domestic Offences

Our domestic offences solicitors are experts in the following types of domestic offences:

  • Coercive and controlling behaviour
  • Stalking and cyber-stalking
  • Harassment
  • Malicious communications
  • So-called ‘honour based’ violence and forced marriage
  • Assaults

 

We have over 30 years’ experience of advising and representing clients charged with all types of domestic offences including the most serious domestic cases involving loss of life or serious injury.

If you are being investigated or prosecuted for controlling and coercive behaviour, harassment, stalking, cyber-stalking or any other domestic offence, it is important that you obtain expert legal advice from the earliest opportunity. Salhan & Company’s lawyers have extensive experience of these types of cases and will provide specialist advice and representation to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Coercive and controlling behaviour

The offence is committed where the offender repeatedly or continuously acts in a controlling or coercive behaviour towards someone with whom they have a ‘personal connection’.

The behaviour must have a ‘serious effect’ on the other person and the offender must have known (or should have known) that it would have a serious effect on that person.

Personal connection

The offence can only be carried out where the parties are ‘personally connected’. The definition of ‘personally connected’ was expanded in April 2023 and now includes the following:

  • individuals who are, or have been, married to each other
  • individuals who are, or have been, civil partners of each other
  • individuals who have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has ended)
  • individuals who have agreed to enter a civil partnership with one another (whether or not the agreement has ended)
  • individuals who are, or have been, in an intimate relationship with each other
  • individuals who each have (or had) a parental relationship to the same child
  • individuals who are relatives.

Repeated or continuous behaviour

The conduct complained of must be ‘repeated or continuous’. This generally means there must be a pattern of behaviour or that the behaviour was frequent or sustained rather than an isolated or one-off incident. The court will however consider the overall impact of the behaviour in the context of the parties’ relationship and what else has taken place.

Serious effect

The behaviour must have a significant adverse impact on the person affected. For example, this could mean their physical or mental health has deteriorated, they have changed their day to day activities such as work or child care arrangements or restricted their social activities or they have implemented security measures at home.

Some examples of controlling and coercive behaviour

There are many examples of ‘controlling and coercive’ behaviour. The following are some of those we have come across:

  • isolating someone from their friends and family
  • depriving them of their basic needs
  • monitoring their time
  • monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware
  • using digital systems such as smart devices or social media to coerce, control, or upset someone
  • taking control over aspects of someone’s everyday life, such as limiting where they go, who they see, what they wear and when they sleep
  • repeatedly putting someone down such as telling them they are worthless
  • enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise
  • economic abuse including coerced debt, controlling spending / bank accounts / benefit payments and other financial arrangements
  • threatening to publish private material

Sentencing

The offence of ‘controlling and coercive behaviour is an ‘either way’ offence which can be dealt with either in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. The choice of venue will generally depend on the seriousness of the allegations (and, in some cases, the decision is left to the defendant).

In the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum penalty for someone convicted of controlling or coercive behaviour is a custodial sentence not exceeding six months (and/or a fine). In the Crown Court, the maximum sentence is a custodial sentence not exceeding five years (and/or a fine).

Harassment

The offence of harassment takes place where a person pursues a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of someone else which they knew (or should have known) amounted to harassment (Protection from Harassment Act 1997).

A more serious version of the offence takes place where the behaviour complained of causes someone to fear that violence will be used.

Some types of harassment include the following, although there are many other examples:

  • sending abusive text messages
  • unwanted phone calls, letters, emails or visits
  • bullying at school or in the workplace
  • antisocial behaviour
  • sending unwanted gifts

 

Very often, harassment offences take place in the context of a domestic setting but, unlike the offence of coercive and controlling behaviour, there is no requirement for the offender to have a relationship with or ‘personal connection’ to the person affected.

Some harassment cases will be dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court. More serious cases are dealt with by the Crown Court. If convicted, defendants face the risk of a custodial sentence and, potentially, a restraining order restricting their movement or other activities.

 

 

Stalking and cyber-stalking

Stalking involves unwanted and persistent behaviour towards someone which causes them fear, distress, or harassment.

More serious cases involve causing fear of violence, or serious distress or alarm.

Stalking encompasses a range of behaviours that go beyond mere nuisance, annoyance or inconvenience.

Stalking behaviours may involve:

  • following someone
  • monitoring someone’s activities
  • making unwanted contact through various means
  • trespassing
  • engaging in other intrusive activities that infringe upon someone’s personal space and well-being.

 

Contrary to popular perception, stalking is not limited to physical proximity. Increasingly, stalking takes place online. Cyber-stalking involves the use of technology to monitor, contact, intimidate or harass someone. Cyber-stalkers use email, social media, text or other digital means to carry out their activities.

 

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