First North East prosecution for controlling and coercive behaviour

10/06/2016

A Cleveland man has today been sentenced in what is believed to be the North Eastís first prosecution for the new criminal offence of controlling and coercive behaviour.

Richard James Wilshaw, 36, of Melsonby Court, Billingham, was sentenced to a total of three and a half years, after pleading guilty to one count of engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour, one count of perverting the course of justice and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The charges all relate to an attack by Wilshaw on his partner in December of last year.

Gerry Wareham, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East said: "Domestic abuse can have a devastating impact on the lives of victims and the CPS is committed to robust and effective prosecution. Wilshaw alternated between menacing and loving behaviour. When the victim followed Wilshaw's rules, he was loving and pleasant, but when the victim resisted, his behaviour changed and became harmful, including forcing her to stay in his flat against her will. This is recognisable as controlling and coercive behaviour, where one person holds more power than the other within an intimate or family relationship.

"There are a number of reasons why people may not report this abuse, including some victims not realising the full extent of the manipulation because it can be incredibly nuanced. The nature of the offence is such that it is often very difficult for victims who may feel unable to come forward or frightened of the consequences if they do. My message to victims is clear - if you feel you are subject to this kind of controlling abusive behaviour then please come forward and the CPS will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice."

Michelle O'Rourke of the North East domestic violence (DV) support charity My Sister's Place advises the CPS on DV issues, through her role as a CPS Scrutiny Panel member.

Michelle said: "It is encouraging to see that Coercive Control has been recognised in criminal law and the seriousness of domestic abuse offences now reflects the pattern of abusive behaviour experienced by many women.

"Domestic abuse can take many forms; it impacts on individuals, families and communities. The recognition of coercive control as an offence was a step towards changing attitudes and improving the response of the Criminal Justice System for victims of domestic violence. We are pleased to see that the CPS are taking forward prosecutions and would encourage anyone who feels frightened within their relationship to come forward and seek help from services. 

"Domestic abuse is everyone's business and such positive action places accountability firmly with the perpetrator of abuse; it is no longer considered something which happens behind closed doors. To anyone reading this who is concerned about their behaviour we would urge them to think about where this may lead and to contact our Route 2 project on 07484 501315 or 07484 501316."