New domestic violence legislation in North will make coercive control a criminal offence

The new laws will make coercive control like behaviour amounting to psychological, emotional or financial abuse a criminal offence.
New domestic violence legislation in North will make coercive control a criminal offence
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Stormont justice minister Naomi Long has introduced legislation targeting domestic violence in Northern Ireland at the Assembly.

The new laws will make coercive control like behaviour amounting to psychological, emotional or financial abuse a criminal offence.

She said social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic often ended in isolation.

The Alliance Party leader said those at risk have found themselves without their normal support networks because they have to remain at home.

Lockdown rules are being regularly reviewed and will eventually be lifted but the minister told Assembly members her legislation was for the long term.

“It is important that our response is not temporary or fleeting as domestic abuse is neither,” Ms Long said

She said it would provide reassurance to victims and urged those in danger to call or email helplines, contact a friend or the police if necessary.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long

“Whilst you may be socially distancing you are definitely not alone.”

She said the wrongdoing affected every class, creed, age and gender.

Victims felt isolated, controlled, trapped, degraded and humiliated and were left always on their guard and awaiting the next attack, the Alliance Party leader added.

Mrs Long said the law would help victims give the best evidence they can to courts and reduce the number disengaging from the criminal justice system.

A person convicted in a crown court of the worst offending faces up to 14 years in prison.

The North's justice committee chairman said the number of domestic abuse crimes was on the increase.

In one year there were 18,033 crimes, Paul Givan said.

“Home is where most people feel secure. It is a haven where you can relax with loved ones.”

He asked where else you could feel safe if not at home.

“For many men, women, young and old, home becomes the worst place to be,” Mr Givan added said.

It is a person’s living nightmare and the crime is committed by someone who supposedly loves them and they should be able to trust.

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