Ryan Giggs accused of coercive and controlling behaviour.
Followers of sport will have been shocked at the charges of assault and coercive control brought against Ryan Giggs’ towards his ex-girlfriend Kate Greville. He faces a charge of coercive and controlling behaviour between December 2017 and November 2020 as well as actual bodily harm and common assault. Coercive and controlling behaviour offence, which has been an offence since 2015, carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. He is due to appear in Salford Magistrates Court on Wednesday 28 April 2021.
The Family Procedure Rules 2010 PD 12J helpfully sets out the wide-ranging definition of coercive and controlling behaviour. It involves one person subjecting another to a pattern of behaviour that can include threats, humiliation, intimidation, and other forms of physical and emotional abuse, including financial abuse. This ultimately results in the victim being isolated from others and totally dependent on their abuser. Professor Evan Stark, noted for his trailblazing work on coercive control, refers to this as the “the most important source of physical, psychological, social and economic harm to women and children and a major source of harm to men”.
Although the steps to increase protection for victims have been progressive, there nevertheless remained a lacuna allowing partners to continue their abuse without prosecution, especially when that abuse was non-physical. In relation to this, the law has lagged behind society’s understanding of the plural nature of domestic abuse that goes far beyond simple violence. Ryan Giggs’ assault charges are just one example of the type of physical violence but the sheer nature of almost a 3-year period of coercive and controlling behaviour is something that should not be overlooked.
Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour
It is crucial to emphasise here that key to this particular form of domestic abuse is an appreciation that it requires an evaluation of a pattern of behaviour in which the significance of isolated incidents can only truly be understood in the context of a much wider picture. The Home Office Guidance published pursuant to section 77(1) of the Serious Crime Act 2015 sets out several examples, a non-exhaustive list of examples includes:
- Isolation from family and friends
- Control over finances
- Taking/monitoring of communication devices
- Belittling and making someone feel worthless
- Threats of harm to the victim or a child
- Restricting autonomy – controlling what a person does, who they see, where they go, what they can do, and who they can speak to
- Gaslighting – making someone questions their own actions
- Depriving victims of access to support
- Exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of their means of independence, resistance and escape and regulating daily activities.
The single most important thing to understand is that coercive and controlling behaviour is now a criminal offence so it should be reported. It is also important to remember that each example is a separate criminal offence. Victims can potentially get protection via the family courts with a Non Molestation Order. This can prevent an abuser from their victim (and any children who may be at risk of significant harm) from abusive behaviour. Any breach of this order should result in the abuser being automatically arrested. If the abuse happens within the home, then an Occupation Order can force the abuser to leave.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly caused some difficulties in this respect but Government advice on social distancing does not prevent those who find themselves in abusive relationships to seek refuge. If you need help, you must seek it.
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