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  1. ITV Report

Westminster to extend ‘coercive control’ offence to NI

Former Justice Minister Claire Sugden has confirmed that coercive control will become a criminal offence in Northern Ireland as Westminster is to extend the legislation to the region.

Victims of domestic abuse from Northern Ireland have been calling for changes to legislation which has been described as 'outdated'.

Northern Ireland is the only region where the law does not tackle coercive control as similar legislation exists in other parts of the UK and in January the Irish government brought in a new law to criminalise coercive control or psychological abuse in a relationship.

Claire Sugden MLA vowed to tackle the issue of domestic abuse during her time as Northern Ireland Justice Minister. Credit: Presseye

Coercive control is constructed through psychological abuse. It’s usually the reason why victims don’t just leave and also the beginning of physical violence. An accurate description is feeling like always ‘walking on eggshells’.

– Claire Sugden MLA

Independent MLA Claire Sugden who served as Justice Minister in the last sitting Northern Ireland Assembly, made tackling domestic abuse one of her main priorities.

“The PSNI report approximately 30,000 incidents of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland each year,” she said.

“It’s government’s hidden shame for allowing it happen and doing little to tackle it before now.

“My biggest regret of the Stormont collapse is not fulfilling my promise to get domestic abuse law onto statute while Minister.”

The offence will now be brought into law via Westminster in the absence of a functioning government in the region.

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“I would prefer that a functioning Northern Ireland Executive create this law because there are other elements in the NI version which cannot be taken through Westminster at this time,” Ms Sugden continued.

“We are, however, long past wishing for an Executive to uphold their responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland; long past allowing victims to continue to suffer. The time was yesterday, but I’m pleased it’s today.

“I dedicate this outcome to survivors of domestic abuse. It’s their honesty of horrific experiences and their strength telling their stories that will hopefully stop others becoming victims. They have started the journey of eradicating domestic abuse in Northern Ireland. Thank you so much.”