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Domestic violence, 
society, and the law

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the issue of domestic violence is one of the most emotive topics in family law. After all, our home and the people we love are supposed to be refuges from ?the world – a place we feel safe and secure. But for some unfortunate people, this ?safe refuge is marred by intimidation, violence, ?and abuse. The damage can ?be deep and long lasting.

17 November 2015

Over the years, society’s understanding of what constitutes domestic abuse has changed. While broken bones or bruises may be obvious, it is much more difficult to notice verbal violence. Words do not leave physical marks, but they have always been the most powerful weapon in any abuser’s arsenal. 

In 2012, the government decided to take action. Behaviour such as coercion and intimidation were included under an expanded definition of domestic violence. Now, section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 has made it illegal to use ‘controlling or coercive’ behaviour in the ?context of ‘an intimate or family relationship’. Anyone who is found guilty of such offences faces the possibility of prison, a fine, or both.

It was clearly introduced ?with the best of intentions. Lawmakers wish to protect those vulnerable to controlling behaviour and punish those who bully and abuse them. But there is real potential for miscarriages of jus...

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