The Coercive Control Offence and Implications for the Policing of Domestic Abuse

Dr Charlotte Barlow1, Dr Kelly Johnson1, Professor Sandra Walklate2
1Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom, 2University of Liverpool

Coercive and controlling behaviours were criminalised in England and Wales as part of Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. There has been consequent growing academic interest and critique of coercive control as a legislative concept (Walklate, Fitzgibbon & McCulloch, 2018; Walby & Towers, 2018). This paper aims to extend this discussion by exploring police responses to coercive control, informed by empirical data from the author’s N8 Catalyst funded project. The paper will consider how the idea of coercive control is utilised and understood in practice by police officers. Police responses to coercive control will be compared to violence against the person with injury cases, in particular ABH, to consider the similarities and differences. Most of the coercive control cases in the data-set analysed featured physical violence. The implications of this, both in terms masking actual levels of violence and the problems and possibilities of coercive control as a legal concept will be discussed.


Dr Charlotte Barlow is a Lecturer in Criminology at Lancaster University. She has conducted research exploring police responses to domestic abuse, women co-offenders experiences of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls more broadly. She is the author of  “Coercion and women co-offenders: A gendered pathway into crime” (2016).


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