Coercive Control: A clinical or a legal concept? Problems and possibilities

Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon3, Professor Sandra Walklate2

2University of Liverpool, 3Monash University

This presentation examines the efficacy of coercive control as a conceptual device for improving access to law and justice outcomes for women as victim/survivors of intimate partner violence. Elsewhere we have considered the problems and possibilities of translating a concept generated from clinical practice into legal practice alongside an exploration of the potential unintended consequences of creating an offence within from such a legacy (see Walklate, Fitz-Gibbon and McCulloch 2018). In that article we concluded that in order to appreciate the gendered nature of intimate partner violence as the increasingly different ways in which this is manifested more law was not the answer. Here we wish to explore further the conceptual/legal dilemmas posed by the introduction of coercive control as an offence in England and Wales. This demands a further critical excavation of the conceptual legacy of coercion from a legal perspective (as opposed to its clinical value). This analysis casts further light on the operational dilemmas posed by this legislation by directing attention towards the question of who the subjects of law, posed some time ago by Naffine (1990, 2003). This analysis adds further weight to the view that more law is not the answer.


Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University, researcher within the Monash Gender and Family Violence Research Program and an  Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool. Her research examines family violence, legal responses to intimate partner violence and the law of homicide in Australia and comparable jurisdictions.



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