The Criminalisation of Coercive Control: The Power of Law?


Making sense of intimate partner violence has long been seen through the lens of coercive control. However, despite the longstanding presence of this concept, it is only in recent years that efforts have been made to recognise coercive control within the legal context. This article examines the extent to which the law per se has the power, or indeed the capacity, to respond to what is known about coercive control. To do so, it charts the varied ways in which coercive control has entered legal discourse in different jurisdictions and maps these efforts onto what is evidenced about the nature and extent of coercive control in everyday life. This article then places the legal and the everyday side by side and considers the unintended consequences of ‘coercive control creep’. In conclusion, it is suggested that the criminalisation of coercive control only serves to fail those it is intended to protect.

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Published: 2019-11-04
Pages:94 to 108
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How to Cite
Walklate, S. and Fitz-Gibbon, K. (2019) “The Criminalisation of Coercive Control: The Power of Law?”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 8(4), pp. 94-108. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v8i4.1205.

Author Biographies

University of Liverpool, United Kingdom and Monash University, Australia
 United Kingdom

Professor Sandra Walklate is Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Sociology at the University of Liverpool conjoint with Professor of Criminology at Monash University (Victoria, Australia). Her research focuses on questions of criminal victimization in which she has been particularly concerned with gendered violence.

Monash University

Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in School of Social Sciences at Monash University (Victoria, Australia) and an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Law and Social Justice at United of Liverpool. Her research examines family violence and the impact of criminal law reform in the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.