Man Cleared Controlling Behaviour Maidstone Crown Court 2023
Not Guilty Controlling Coercive Behaviour Maidstone Crown Court 2023
Our client was charged with common assault and coercive and controlling behaviour against his wife. It was alleged that from around a year into the relationship until the end, the defendant would;
- Regularly emotionally abuse the complainant by calling her names and criticise her
- Threaten to take their daughter away
- Threaten to throw the complainant out of the family home
- Lie about threats to remove her from the family home
- Falsely claim to be a victim of abuse
- Require the complainant to seek permission before inviting friends and family to the home
- Threaten violence
- Told the complainant she could not refuse to have sex with him
- Try to control use of objects and rooms in the family home
Much of the evidence was in the form of text messages between the complainant and defendant. The defendant’s case was that the messages had been provided to the police without the true context.
This is serious offence and classed as an intimidatory offence.
Proving controlling and coercive behaviour –
- Evidence will focus on the full and broad pattern of behaviour and on the overall impact.
- To prove that coercive control took place, the prosecution is required to prove that:
- The behaviour was repeated, and
- The defendant personally knew the victim, and
- Their behaviour had a serious effect on the victim, and
- The defendant knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that their behaviour would have had a serious effect on the victim.
- To do this, the prosecution will need to rely on various pieces of material/evidence, which may include but are not limited to:
- Phone Recordings
- Video footage
- Written communications, such as text messages and emails
- Medical records
- Photographic evidence
- Bank records to show financial abuse
- Eyewitness accounts
The law is detailed below -
Section 76 Serious Crime Act 2015 (SCA 2015) created the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship (CCB). It can be tried summarily or at the crown court and has a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a)A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive,
(b)at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected,
(c)the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and
(d)A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.
(2)A and B are “personally connected” if—
(a)A is in an intimate personal relationship with B, or
(b)A and B live together and—
(i)they are members of the same family, or
(ii)they have previously been in an intimate personal relationship with each other.
(e)they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
(f)they are both parents of the same child;
(g)they have, or have had, parental responsibility for the same child.
In proceedings for an offence it is a defence for A to show that—
(a)in engaging in the behaviour in question, A believed that he or she was acting in B's best interests, and
(b)the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.
A is to be taken to have shown the facts mentioned in subsection if—
(a)sufficient evidence of the facts is adduced to raise an issue with respect to them, and
(b)the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Our client was advised to plead not guilty on the basis that he did not assault his wife and that his behaviour was not coercive or controlling in any way. Our client’s defence was that the allegations were false and that their conduct was reasonable and proportionate behaviour.
We were instructed after under our premium private service. The case was prepared without any stone unturned with a strong defence team dealing with vast prosecution and defence disclosure consisting of communications by email, calls and texts over a long period. We instructed a leading barrister in this field and secured the best possible and transparent costs agreement in the client’s favour.
We dealt with relevant disclosure from family and divorce proceedings and advised on the intricate legal provisions concerned to be permitted to use material from such proceedings.
Full and very detailed defence jury bundles were prepared for the trial. This clearly showed messages sent between both parties.
The jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict on both counts after an 8 day trial at Maidstone Crown Court. The jury returned their verdicts in under an hour.
Our client was delighted with the outcome as a conviction would have ended his career and undoubtedly risked a lengthy custodial sentence being imposed.
The most serious perpetrators of coercive control can be sentenced to five years in prison. In other cases, is it more likely that there will be a short prison sentence or a fine.