People who use repeated threats, humiliation and intimidation to control their intimate partners or family members could face prosecution, as of today.
In order for the offence to apply, the pattern of behaviour alleged must have a “serious effect” on the victim, Home Office guidance says.
This means they must have either feared violence will be used against them on at least two occasions or they have been caused serious alarm or distress which has a “substantial adverse effect” on their usual day-to-day activities.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions said: “”Controlling or coercive behaviour can limit victims’ basic human rights, such as their freedom of movement and their independence.
“This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving.
“Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else’s rules. Often they fear that violence will be used against them, or suffer from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.
“These new powers mean this behaviour, which is particularly relevant to cases of domestic abuse, can now be prosecuted in its own right.”
All cases will be heard in magistrates’ or crown courts and evidence could potentially include emails and bank records.