My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, for so clearly and comprehensively introducing her amendment. Amendment 149 would insert a new clause that seeks to extend the protection from any coercive and controlling behaviour that occurs post-separation. The noble Baroness concentrated on economic abuse, but that is not the only form of ongoing abuse.
I was in a relationship that became increasingly abusive over a period of five years. The first time I noticed something was happening was when a friend, a former partner, sent me a birthday card. When I explained who it was from, my then partner tore it up and threw it in the bin. His controlling and coercive behaviour continued and got worse, and he eventually resorted to physical violence. When we split up, he threatened to kill me and threatened to write to my employer to try to destroy my career. I continued to live in fear of what he might do until, 18 months after we had split up, he colluded with a Sunday tabloid newspaper to expose intimate details of our private life, including making public my HIV status, as well as making false allegations that the newspaper eventually admitted were libellous. Fighting the issue in the courts would have resulted in me losing everything if I had lost that case. His actions did not amount to harassment or stalking.
Coercive and controlling behaviour can continue long after separation, with victims of domestic abuse continuing to live in fear of what the perpetrator might do next, and the law needs to reflect this. Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 applies only if the perpetrator and victim are in an intimate relationship or if they live together. This amendment would ensure that it would apply to all those who are “personally connected” as defined by Clause 2 of this Bill, whether they live together or not. As such, it would also include the circumstances that Amendment 157 seeks to cover, where a relative is exerting controlling or coercive behaviour, whether or not they live together.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, explained, his amendment is specifically aimed at protecting older and disabled family members. I strongly support Amendment 149 and welcome the focus which Amendment 157 brings to the abuse of older and disabled family members.