If a current or former partner has interfered with your money or other economic resources in some way to limit your choices, this information is for you. It outlines how the police can support you if you have experienced economic abuse.
The police are there to keep you safe. If you are in immediate danger, they should be your first port of call by dialling 999.
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Approaching the police if you are experiencing abuse can be daunting. You may wonder what the police can do to help, and may feel nervous about reporting the abuse.
There is a lot that the police can do to help, and they will prioritise the safety of you and your children. Keeping the public safe is one of the key responsibilities of the police.
Reporting abuse is the first step towards accessing justice. It may be useful to understand how economic abuse relates to the law, as the police can only act if the abuser’s behaviour is criminal.
Although there is no criminal offence of domestic abuse, many specific forms of abusive behaviour are criminal offences. This includes threats to kill, assault and rape.
Some of the ways that an abuser might restrict how you acquire, use and maintain money and other economic resources1 (such as accommodation, food and clothing) can be criminal offences.
Controlling or coercive behaviour is also now a criminal offence. It was introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015. Economic abuse is a form of controlling or coercive behaviour and often overlaps with other controlling tactics such as:
Our research shows that six in ten successful prosecution of the controlling or coercive behaviour offence include economic abuse.2
The abuser may make you feel like you cannot seek help from the police. Some possible tactics include:
It may take a number of attempts to get the right response from the police. However, many police forces have been trained on how challenging it can be for you to report domestic or economic abuse. They have a responsibility to believe you and keep you safe.
If any of the above circumstances apply, you can report the abuser to the police. If you are not in immediate danger, the number for your local police is 101, regardless of where you live. You can also report in person at your local police station.
If you are in immediate danger, you can call 999. If you cannot speak to the operator on the 999 call, you can press 55 to let them know your call is genuine. This will not let the police know where you are, however. If you can say anything, tell them your location.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, the police should speak to you separately from the abuser. You can also ask to speak to a female police officer, if you would prefer to.
Usually, the police will investigate and, if there are sufficient grounds, they may arrest the abuser. This does not necessarily mean that the abuser will be charged. Usually the police pass the case on to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will decide whether to pursue charges.
The police do not need to see the offence happen. They do not need a warrant to make an arrest if they suspect the abuser is going to commit an offence.
They will try to gather evidence, such as photographs of damage or injuries, so that the case is not solely based on your statement. If the abuser has committed an ‘arrestable offence’, the police will not need your permission to make an arrest.
If you report the abuser to the police, seek support from a local domestic abuse or legal service. You can search for a local domestic abuse service on the Women’s Aid website.
If the police take action against the abuser, you can ask for a crime reference number, which may be helpful if you seek further support.
The police may ask you for evidence, as well as gather evidence for themselves. Evidence of economic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour can include:
The police can also support you with:
If you are unhappy with the response from your local police force, they should each have a domestic abuse policy, strategy or guidelines for you to check.
If their response does not match these guidelines, you may wish to make a formal complaint. Women’s Aid has a directory of local services that can help you do this.
Last updated September 2020
If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.
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