My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 149. It took us a long time to recognise coercive control, but now that we have, we have come a long way very quickly. The term “coercive control” has entered our vernacular; as mentioned in an earlier debate, “The Archers” centred a major story line on it, as did “Coronation Street”. That might sound trivial, but it is not, because with each storyline, society’s understanding grows and what was once considered acceptable is not any longer.
The Government should be proud of the part they have played in reaching this point. When Theresa May introduced the offence of coercive and controlling behaviour in 2015, England and Wales became the first countries in the world to recognise and criminalise this behaviour. With the Bill we are leading the world again by including economic abuse in the first legal definition of domestic abuse. Again, we are ahead of the curve.
When the Government launched consultation on the Bill in March 2018, LBC ran a phone-in discussing economic abuse. A woman called in. She had been suffering from emotional abuse and was also suffering from financial abuse without knowing it was a recognised behaviour. After listening to the show, the woman admitted she was now considering leaving her husband, saying: “I’ve always hidden it: ‘It’s all me; it’s all me.’ Now I realise it’s not all me. I’ve been going through this for quite some time, but I didn’t realise this was an issue”. This is just one example but it shows the very real impact of this Bill and how it is already forging that better understanding and, in so doing, providing better protection for victims—but it can provide better protection for many more victims if it accepts this amendment to include post-separation abuse in controlling and coercive behaviour rather than relying on stalking legislation in which it does not fit easily as a stand-alone offence.
I appreciate that my noble friend has said that we must wait for the outcome of the Home Office review and that this will be published by Report. I sincerely hope the findings will in fact cover this issue for, if we do not address this, we will be letting down all those victims, who we know exist and who continue to suffer even when they have summoned up the courage to leave their abusive partner. If we do that, I am afraid we will have renounced our leading role in this area.