Coercive Control and the Law
Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse that has recently been made a criminal offence in Ireland. This form of abuse is common in domestic violence cases, where a pattern of controlling behaviour is perpetrated on the victim.
Claims for coercive control abuse in Ireland
Claims of coercive control can be brought forward in both criminal and civil courts. In criminal cases, it is the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) bringing forward a case. Whereas, in civil cases, it is the victim themselves through their legal representative. In a criminal case, where successful, the perpetrator gets a jail sentence. In a civil case, the victim (plaintiff) is suing the perpetrator (defendant) for compensation for damages. These damages can be accrued from emotional, physical, sexual, and psychological trauma.
Often, a case of coercive control happens where the perpetrator monitors the victim’s every move, controlling every aspect of their everyday life. This control can occur in many forms:
- Financial control – controlling how much financial freedom the victim has, i.e., where they can spend money and what they can spend money on
- Social control – controlling where the victim goes, who the victim sees, what the victim wears, when the victim can leave the house when the victim can sleep
- Mental abuse – making the victim feel worthless by constantly putting them down
- Verbal abuse – both in person and/or via messaging platforms
- Forcing the victim to do illegal acts e.g., shoplifting
- Controlling and monitoring the victim’s movements – both online and in person
- Stopping the victim from accessing support services
- Encouraging the victim to isolate themselves from friends and family
- Forcing the victim to engage in non-consensual sexual activity
Coercive control can have many disturbing effects on the victim. Both their physical and emotional health can become severely damaged – low self-esteem, living in fear and social isolation are some of the major impacts suffered by victims of coercive control.
Coercive control law in Ireland
In Ireland, coercive control became a criminal offence after the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2018. The first conviction and sentencing for coercive control took place on Tuesday, 11th February 2020, thus making this criminal offence one of the newest in the state. Unfortunately, this means that only instances of coercive control that occur after the 1st of January 2019 can be prosecuted in criminal courts.
Emotional abuse is recognised, however, as a cause of action for a civil lawsuit. These cases can be mentally taxing on anyone that decides to proceed with legal action, therefore, it is imperative to hire a solicitor that you can trust and is experienced in claims of coercive control.
We at Coleman Legal LLP understand that any form of abuse is extremely distressing. We deal with each case on a personal, one-to-one basis with compassion, empathy, and understanding. Our personal injury solicitors have expert knowledge and experience handling these claims by ensuring that our clients receive fair compensation. In these cases, damages for any emotional, physical and psychological distress is just as important as compensation for medical fees, loss of earnings, and any future expenses.
When making a claim of coercive control, some form of psychological damage has to be shown. This can be proven by diagnosing anxiety, depression, personality disorders, PTSD or panic disorder. This is why documents like medical reports, medical records, police reports, and personal statements are important to gather as evidence in these cases.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations must be taken into account for any claim of personal injury. In these cases, you must make a claim within six years of the abuse occurring. If coercive control takes place within the workplace, the time allowed to take a case against the employer may be limited in certain cases to two years. Learn more
What happens in a civil claim or Coercive Control?
Given that the victim is suing for monetary damages, it is necessary to ascertain whether the perpetrator has sufficient assets to enable recovery of this compensation should the Court find in favour of the victim. In these cases, it is necessary to take up all relevant medical records and evidence of the abuse and the impacts such abuse has caused on the victim. It is also necessary to procure psychiatric evidence on any psychological or psychiatric injuries that the individual has suffered as a result of the abuse, e.g., the development of anxiety, depression, personality disorders, PTSD, or panic disorder.
When the necessary evidence has been gathered, including any statements or documentation held by An Garda Siochana where applicable, a letter setting out the allegations and reliefs sought from the perpetrator is issued. Where no meaningful response is received from the perpetrator, an application is submitted to the Injuries Board for the purposes of obtaining Authorisation to issue proceedings in Court.
Cases of this nature are usually issued in the High Court and can be heard by a Judge and Jury or Judge sitting alone. From the time that court proceedings are issued, it can often take about three years before the case reaches Hearing before the Court at which time the plaintiff may be required to give their evidence. The Court will also hear the evidence of the Defendant.
Some cases, depending on the circumstances, are settled outside of Court where the Defendant(s) agrees to pay compensation to the plaintiff without the necessity for the matter to be heard by a Judge. Where this occurs, the plaintiff is not required to give evidence in Court.
How to protect yourself if you are a victim of coercive control
Contacting support services, e.g., Women’s Aid, Safe Ireland, Men’s Aid
- Women’s Aid (1800)341900 (24-hour National Freephone Helpline)
- MensAid (01) 554 3811 (for male victims of domestic abuse)
- Cosc The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence
- whatwouldyoudo.ie Department of Justice and Equality ‘What Would You Do’ Campaign
- Still Here public awareness campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic
Reporting the crime to An Garda Siochana
This will require you to
- Provide a statement
- Submit any evidence from mobile phones /other devices
- Compile any witness statements, e.g., statements from family/friends
- Gather evidence, e.g., medical records, financial records, records of consultations with support services
- The Gardai will then forward the full report to the DPP,, where a decision regarding prosecution is made
Applying for a protection order from the family law courts
These orders prohibit the perpetrator from committing any further offences against the victim
- Emergency barring order
- Interim barring order
- Barring order
- Protection Order
- Safety order
How Coleman Legal can help?
Our dedicated team will be happy to discuss your situation with you confidentially. We make no initial charges and will fully investigate matters for you to enable you to decide on the best course of action for you in your particular circumstances.
If you would like to discuss this further, please contact:
Coleman Legal LLP
84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
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