A NEW offence to protect women from controlling partners saw just six convictions in Leicestershire last year.
In 2017, 15 people in the police force area were taken to court for the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.
Of these, six pleaded or were found guilty, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice - a conviction rate of 40%.
The specific offence of coercive control came into force on December 29, 2015.
Figures show in the first year the offence could be charged, one person in Leicestershire appeared in court, they were not convicted.
In 2017, people in Leicestershire appeared in court charged with coercive control at a rate of 14 per 1 million people living in the police force area.
This is above the England and Wales rate of 11 per 1 million.
Of those who appeared in court in our area in 2017, 13 were men, one was a woman, who was aged 25 or over, and one aged between 21 and 24 whose gender was unknown. Among the men, there were two aged between 21 and 24, and 11 aged 25 and over.
Of those who were convicted, five were men aged 25 and over, and the other was the person whose gender was not known.
Research based on domestic abuse data from Merseyside Police found that 95% of coercive control victims were women and 74% of perpetrators were men.
Meanwhile, another study found 95% of domestic abuse survivors reported experiencing coercive control.
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, while coercive behaviour is a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation.
If someone continuously acts in this way towards a partner or family member, knowing that the behaviour is having a serious effect on the victim - for example making the victim fear violence could be used against them on more than one occasion - then it is an offence.
Such behaviours might include isolating a person from their friends and family, monitoring them, telling them where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep, repeatedly putting them down, forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity, neglect or abuse of children, controlling finances, and making threats.
Across England and Wales, 235 people were convicted of coercive control in 2017 - up from 59 in 2016.
The number of people appearing in court charged with the offence rose from 197 to 664.
This means the conviction rate in England and Wales was 35%.
Of those convicted, 233 were men, one of whom was aged between 15 and 17, while 12 were aged between 18 and 20, 36 were aged between 21 and 24, and 184 were aged 25 and over.
Also convicted was one women aged between 18 and 20, and someone aged between 21 and 24 where the gender is not known.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “From our work with survivors, we know that coercive and controlling behaviour is at the heart of domestic abuse. We welcome the small uplift in conviction rates for coercive control offences.
“However, it is clear that the full force of the law is yet to be felt for those who continue to commit this devastating form of abuse with only 235 offenders convicted for coercive control in England and Wales during 2017.
“The criminal justice system must make tackling coercive control a priority. The police and Crown Prosecution Service must receive comprehensive and ongoing training co-delivered by specialists like Women’s Aid to help them understand that domestic abuse isn’t just an act of physical violence but can be emotional and psychological too.
“We also need to ensure that the police continue to improve their evidence gathering, focusing on the harm caused to the victim and the wider context of the abuse not just gathering evidence from the incident attended, to ensure that a comprehensive case is presented in court.
“We need a criminal justice system that both keeps survivors of coercive control safe and holds perpetrators to account for all forms of domestic abuse.”