The Battle against Bullying: New Sanctions

There are measures out there to prosecute assault, false imprisonment and causing harm but relatively few for psychological type injuries inflicted by one spouse or partner on another

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 provided some relief in this area by establishing the offence of Coercive Control and since it was introduced in January 2019, the state has initiated 21 criminal prosecutions for Coercive Control under this Act.

A party will be guilty of Coercive Control if he/ she persistently engages in behaviour that is controlling or coercive and is reasonably likely to have a serious effect on another person.

In 2020, a man pleaded guilty to coercive control where his partner gave evidence of thousands of phone calls to her over a few months forcing her to always keep her phone with her. She was also forced in to using facetime repeatedly to show him where she was and with whom during the day. In a more recent case, in 2021, a wife was even told when and what she was allowed watch on television.

A useful tool in any court case is evidence from friends of the victim who can usually vouch for the persistent psychological bullying that is the essence of coercive control.

Women usually told friends or the Garda that because they were not physically assaulted, they felt their complaints would not be listened to and that explains precisely why this additional offence was created.

In recent times, there is a lot more acknowledgement of the distress and harm caused to victims by bullying and controlling behaviour whether in the workplace, school or indeed the family home.


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