Domestic or relationship abuse

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Offences that may cover different forms of domestic and relationship abuse and preventative strategies for each behaviour

First published
Written by College of Policing

Cyberflashing​​​​​​​

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

  • Cyberflashing, the sending of unsolicited sexual images, is potentially covered under Malicious Communications Act 1998, s 1 – offence of sending letters with intent to cause distress or anxiety.
  • This states that any person who sends one of the following forms of communications to another person is guilty of an offence if his purpose – or one of his purposes – in sending it is that it should cause distress or anxiety to the recipient, or to any other person to whom he intends that it – or its contents or nature – should be communicated.
    • A letter, electronic communication or article of any description that conveys:
      • a message that is indecent or grossly offensive
      • a threat
      • information that is false and known or believed to be false by the sender
    • Any article or electronic communication that is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature.

Preventative strategies

Cyberstalking

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

Preventative strategies

See also:

Domestic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

  • Domestic abuse is defined in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, s 1 as follows.
    • Behaviour of a person (‘A’) towards another person (‘B’) is domestic abuse if A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and the behaviour is abusive.
  • Behaviour is abusive if it consists of any of the following:
    • physical or sexual abuse
    • violent or threatening behaviour
    • controlling or coercive behaviour
    • economic abuse
    • psychological, emotional or other abuse
  • It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
  • For offences associated with domestic abuse, see APP: Context and dynamics of domestic abuse.
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour can be a warning sign of a risk of future violence towards the victim. Although the conduct may appear low-level, any behaviour or pattern suggestive of controlling or coercive behaviour must be treated seriously and investigated to determine whether an offence has been committed under the Serious Crime Act 2015, s 76. Controlling or coercive behaviour towards another can also include, or be committed in conjunction with, a range of other offences.

Preventative strategies

Non-fatal strangulation or attempts to choke or suffocate through drowning or pillow over head

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

Preventative strategies

Revenge porn

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

Preventative strategies

Romance fraud

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

  • Romance scams involve people being duped into sending money to criminals, who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship. They use language to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells. These requests might be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas.
  • Offences under the Fraud Act 2006 are applicable to a wide range of cyber-frauds by focusing on the underlying dishonesty and deception. The acts of setting up false social networking accounts or aliases could also amount to criminal offences under the Fraud Act 2006 if there was a financial gain. Under section 8 of the Fraud Act 2006, possession or making or supplying articles for use in frauds includes any program or data held in electronic form. 

Preventative strategies

Stalking and harassment

Relevant offences that may cover the behaviour (dependent on the circumstances of the case)

  • Stalking and harassment are offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
  • In cases of stalking there is a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour that is intrusive. It can include harassment that amounts to stalking, or stalking that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress.
  • Harassment is described as unreasonable and oppressive behaviour that is repeated and may cause alarm, distress or fear of violence in the victim. The legal descriptions for these offences in law are similar. However, stalking behaviours suggest greater risk of harm and require greater consideration of risk management.
  • See APP: Stalking and harassment for further details.

Preventative strategies

References

Stansfield R and Williams KR. (2018). ‘Coercive control between intimate partners: An application to non-fatal strangulation’. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(9-10).

Glass N and others. ‘Non-fatal strangulation is an important risk factor for homicide of women’. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 35(3), pp 329–335.