Controlling or coercive behaviour legislation

The information on this page relates to the law in England and Wales.

Controlling or coercive behaviour is a crime in England and Wales under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act (2015).  

This briefing paper sets out how controlling or coercive behaviour relates to economic abuse.

We have worked to influence policy over a number of years so that the controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB) legislation recognises economic abuse, including post-separation.

“This type of abuse has affected every part of my daily life; it has seemed to be endless… Knowing this [is] now a criminal offence is a huge relief.”

Victim-survivor on the amendment to the CCB legislation to criminalise post-separation abuse

SEA’s key achievements 

  • Economic abuse is included in the legal definition of domestic abuse: A definition of economic abuse is also included in law. This means that the police and other agencies should be more aware of economic abuse and are more likely to consider it under the controlling or coercive behaviour offence.  
  • Securing the amendment to the law to criminalise abuse that takes place post-separation: The offence of controlling or coercive behaviour has been extended to include abuse that takes place after a relationship has ended and when the abuser and the victim are no longer living together. This change in the law came into effect on 5 April 2023. We have more information about post-separation abuse and the law.
  • Detailed information on economic abuse and post-separation abuse in Home Office guidance: The statutory guidance on the controlling or coercive behaviour offence includes detailed guidance on economic abuse and post-separation abuse. SEA worked to influence this guidance to better reflect economic abuse and post-separation economic abuse. The guidance will support the police in recognising economic abuse as a form of controlling and coercive behaviour.

These changes mean that the controlling or coercive behaviour legislation can more effectively support victim-survivors of economic abuse. For more information on our policy influencing work to achieve these changes, see our page on the Domestic Abuse Act.  

“Without question, Surviving Economic Abuse was the key actor in getting that legislation included in the Domestic Abuse Bill… SEA has changed the law quicker than most organisations in this space and deserves real credit for that”. Jess Phillips, Labour MP (Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)

Current priorities  

We continue to focus on influencing the implementation of the controlling or coercive behaviour legislation as amended so that more women are protected by the change in the law.  

  • We call for enhanced training for police and other professionals in the criminal justice system, so that they more easily recognise economic abuse (in particular post-separation).
  • We will monitor successful prosecutions of controlling or coercive behaviour. We want to see more abusers prosecuted successfully, with full recognition of  economic abuse as part of the offence, including post-separation. 

Into Plain Sight

In December 2017, Surviving Economic Abuse published ‘Into Plain Sight’ – an analysis of how economic abuse is reflected in successful prosecutions of controlling or coercive behaviour.

In the report, we recommended that:

  1. Statutory guidance on controlling or coercive behaviour should name and define economic abuse
  2. The Westminster Government should recognise economic abuse within the statutory definition of domestic violence that is being developed within the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.
  3. Consideration needs to be given about how to address forms of economic abuse which result in economic costs to the victim in sentencing and possibly criminal injury claims.
  4. Awareness-raising activity needs to be undertaken so that behaviours which seek to interfere with an individual’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources are understood as abusive.
  5. The Westminster Government should consider making economic abuse a criminal offence.
  6. Responses to domestic violence cases should incorporate an understanding of both physical and economic safety.

See more information on how we took these recommendations forward to successfully change the law through influencing the Domestic Abuse Act for England and Wales.

Seen yet sidelined

In September 2023 we published an updated analysis of how economic abuse is reflected and responded to within successful prosecutions of the Controlling or Coercive Behaviour Offence.

In ‘Seen yet sidelined’, we recommended that:

  • Police training on controlling or coercive behaviour and economic abuse should be made mandatory to help police proactively identify and gather evidence of it. 
  • Victim-survivors experiencing economic abuse can access specialist support to re-establish their economic safety. 
  • An increased use of court-awarded compensation and the confiscation of assets derived from criminal conduct during sentencing, so victim-survivors do not have to pay the price for abusers’ crimes.
  • The Government works with credit rating agencies to identify a way to re-establish victim-survivors’ credit rating to help them rebuild their lives.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill is a golden opportunity to move economic abuse out of the shadows to make sure victim-survivors are better supported and perpetrators are held to account.

See more information about our influencing work on the Victims and Prisoners Bill.