Hundreds of allegations of coercive, controlling behaviour were reported to Essex Police last year.

The force dealt with 449 incidents between April and September 2020 – but only 22 resulted in someone being charged.

A total of 332 outcomes were closed investigations in that period, but Home Office data shows Essex Police had a higher rate of charges and summons than almost anywhere else in England and Wales.

Legislation was introduced five years ago to tackle the “insidious” form of domestic abuse but the figures show that the majority of allegations do not reach court.

The law is intended to protect victims of ‘extreme psychological and emotional abuse’ but Women’s Aid says it is clear “only a tiny proportion of survivors” see justice.

A review into the law's effectiveness is currently underway, while the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs' Council acknowledge there is work to be done to increase prosecution rates.


Abusers can be jailed for five years for subjecting a partner or family member to controlling or coercive behaviour, but what are the signs of it and what exactly does the law cover?

Here are the 10 behaviours which are considered coercive and illegal:

1 - Sharing sexually explicit images of a partner

Laws surrounding ‘revenge porn’ make it illegal for someone to share intimate photographs of you with anyone, online or otherwise.

2 - Restricting access to finances

Even if they earn more money than you, the law says your partner cannot stop you from accessing cash within the relationship.

3 - Putting you down

Persistent name-calling, mocking and other forms of insulting behaviour are now illegal.

4 - Stopping a partner from seeing friends or family

Monitoring or blocking of calls and emails, telling you where you can or cannot go, and preventing you from seeing your friends or relatives is against the law.

If your partner isolates you from the people you love, they could face the wrath of the law.

5 - Scaring you

Your partner might not physically assault you, but if they are doing enough to frighten you, they are committing an offence.

That could include using their size to intimidate or breaking things around the house.

6 - Threatening to reveal private things about you

Repeated threats to reveal personal and private information is now classed as a form of abuse. It could include revealing details about health or sexual orientation.

7 - Putting tracking devices on your phone

It is illegal under to “monitor a person using online communication tools or spyware”.

8 - Being extremely jealous

Persistent accusation of cheating and “extreme jealousy, including possessiveness and ridiculous accusations of cheating” are all illegal under legislation.

9 - Forcing you to obey their rules

The CPS says if a partner is forced to abide by stringent rules set by a partner, it could mean they are committing a crime.

10 - Controlling what you wear

Your partner taking control over any part of your life is highlighted in the new legislation, including restricting who you see and where you go.

Controlling what you wear or how you look could also be grounds for prosecution under the laws.