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Did you know that controlling or coercive behaviour in a relationship is a serious crime under 2015 legislation? Despite popular Netflix programmes such as Dirty John showing us an insight on what these could be like, unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who are unaware that this legislation exists.

 To many of you who had no idea that coercive and controlling behaviour was a criminal offence, the legislation defines boundaries to the public to make us further aware that psychological and controlling abusive behaviour is punishable. In fact, this can result in punitive punishment with up to five years in prison, depending upon the severity of the offence.


What Type of Relationship is Recognised by the Legislation?

To be seen in a controlling or coercive relationship, you first have to establish the matter of the relationship.

The 2015 legislation sets out particular relationships that are legally recognised as to have that power over an individual and if there is in fact controlling behaviour present.


What is the Boundary for Coercive or Controlling Relationships?

  • Controlling what your partner wears
  • Controlling who they speak to and choose to spend time with
  • Going through a partner’s belongings without their consent (e.g. phone)
  • Controlling when they are allowed to see their friends or family
  • Controlling how they spend their money (cases of partners giving their significant other allowances of their own money) 
  • Taking wages from a partner
  • Making threats to reveal private or personal information
  • Preventing a person from leaving the home (or going outside at all)
  • Keeping medical conditions from your partner (without their knowledge they cannot give consent (e.g. HIV status, STIs, etc.))
  • Threats towards that person, or to any children involved or pets
  • Criminal damage (e.g. items of value or to the household)
  • Setting rules in place that could degrade or dehumanise (e.g. controlling where they sleep)
  • Repeatedly putting your partner down (name calling, etc.)
  • Taking away access to medical services or other professional support services
  • Monitoring their online communication (e.g. using spyware or any tracking device)
  • Keeping track of your partners time/location

Please note: This list does not include all the ways by which someone can be controlling and coercive in a relationship.


How Can Howells Assist You If You Are in a Coercive and Controlling Relationship?

There are multiple routes we can take to help and advice of surrounding protective injunctions.


Occupation Orders

These will typically set out guidelines for the family household.

These guidelines can either:

  1. Remove someone from the property on a temporary basis.
  2. Can outline a variety of rules that both parties must adhere to whilst both residing within the property.

Occupation Orders are typically temporary (these can last up to six months but, if necessary, a further Occupation Order may be applied for).


Non-Molestation Order

This would be classed as a more protective order to stop a partner/spouse from violent behaviour or actions.

This can not only be used on the family home, but to also protect you in the workplace and can be enforceable for six to twelve months. If the behaviour continues, further applications can be put in place.

If a non-molestation order is breached, this would be classed as a criminal offence and can result in punitive punishment.


Emergency Order

If our team of family solicitors were approached by an individual who is in immediate threat or danger, with the appropriate circumstances, we can ensure an application is made without informing the partner/spouse.

This would consist of an emergency hearing to protect you or any children that may also be in threat of immediate danger.

Following this, a further hearing would be given where both parties will be asked to provide evidence to the court.


Your Next Steps to Benefit from Our Expertise

We would first have an initial consultation or phone call to gauge what you wish to do in the situation, because at the end of the day, we are here to advise and protect YOU. We will never pressure a client into making a decision with something that you are uncomfortable with.

Even though we can produce Emergency Orders in the most extreme circumstances when it comes to domestic violence, we do have a duty of care to report criminal behaviour to the police.

If you are unsure or feel you are in a coercive relationship, please contact our experienced legal team (Richard Scott, Karis Jones and Ashleigh Woodward). If requested, we are happy to contact you at a time that suits you.

*Please note if you’re situation is escalating then it may be that you need to call 999.



With effect from 15th February 2015 EU Regulations on Consumer Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) allow consumers who bought our services online to submit their complaint via an online complaint portal.

We are required under the regulations to provide our clients the following information:-
  1. Link to the ODR platform - please follow the following link for further information (
  2. Our contact email address in case of a complaint under the ODR regulation – Andrea Coombes