A new offence to protect women from controlling partners saw no convictions on Teesside last year – but there have been 23 arrests so far in 2018.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed just two people were taken to court in Cleveland Police force area for controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship in 2017.

Neither pleaded or were found guilty.

However, more convictions have begun to come through in 2018.

David Alan Watson, 36, of Conyers Way, North Ormesby, admitted controlling and coercive behaviour at Teesside Crown Court earlier this year.

And Terry Dickenson, 57, of Walton Court, Stockton, admitted the offence at Teesside Magistrates in July.

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The specific offence of coercive control came into force in 2015.

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said there were five people charged with the crime in 2017.

Detective Superintendent Anne-Marie Salwey said Cleveland Police was the first force in the North-east to charge a man for coercive control in 2016.

She added: “While only five people were charged with coercive control last year, the offence is gaining increased recognition – Cleveland Police has seen 67 recorded crimes so far this year which have resulted in 23 arrests.

“While the nature of the offence may sometimes make it difficult for victims to come forward, we would always encourage victims to report all incidents.

“We offer support to victims via partner agencies who can help them through the reporting process and any subsequent court proceedings.”

WHAT IS COERCIVE CONTROL?

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from support.

Coercive behaviour is a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation.

If someone continuously acts in this way towards a partner or family member, knowing that the behaviour is having a serious effect on the victim – for example making the victim fear violence could be used against them on more than one occasion – then it is an offence.

Such behaviours might include:

Isolating a person from their friends and family.

Monitoring them.

Telling them where they can go and who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep.

Repeatedly putting them down.

Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity, neglect or abuse of children.

Controlling finances.

Making threats.

Det Supt Salwey said Cleveland Police had launched a “whole system approach to domestic abuse” aiming to increase knowledge by working with family courts and “enhance multi-agency safeguarding” for victims.

She added: “A team of experts has been established to develop how police and the court system handle domestic abuse cases and a major training programme has been launched this month to raise awareness of coercive control.

“All front line officers and staff will take part in as well as colleagues from the Crown Prosecution Service and other partner agencies.”

THE NATIONAL PICTURE

235 people were convicted of coercive control in 2017 in England and Wales – up from 59 in 2016.

And the number of people appearing in court charged with the offence rose from 197 to 664 – a conviction rate of 35%.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said coercive and controlling behaviour was “at the heart” of domestic abuse.

Ms Ghose added: “We welcome the small uplift in conviction rates for coercive control offences.

“However, it is clear that the full force of the law is yet to be felt for those who continue to commit this devastating form of abuse.

“The criminal justice system must make tackling coercive control a priority. The police and CPS must receive comprehensive and ongoing training co-delivered by specialists like Women’s Aid to help them understand that domestic abuse isn’t just an act of physical violence but can be emotional and psychological too.”

© 2018 Tees Info

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