The Crown Prosecution service has updated its guidelines on what constitutes coercive or controlling behaviour

Gemma Lindfield features in Cosmopolitan Magazine, in respect of the updated Crown Prosecution service guidelines on what constitutes coercive or controlling behaviour. Read the article in full here:

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has updated its guidelines on what constitutes controlling and coercive behaviour to include 'love bombing' – wherein an abuser showers their victim with excessive attention, admiration, and affection, causing the recipient to grow dependent on and feel indebted to them. This could include grand gestures to fool family and friends, offering to help with financial difficulties, and buying gifts.

This decision to update guidelines has been praised as a positive step forward by both legal counsel and women's charities, and is one that will hopefully challenge the narrative that abusers are cruel or violent from the start.

Ruth Davison, Chief Executive of Refuge, told Cosmopolitan UK the charity are pleased with the change as "love-bombing – abuse disguised as affection – can have serious negative implications on a survivor's ability to see friends and family, to work, and can leave them with feelings of indebtedness which makes it harder to leave".

She added that it's "vital that the criminal justice system recognises the extent perpetrators will [go] in an attempt to control and manipulate a partner, and this change is a step in the right direction. I hope this updated guidance means more survivors are able to seek justice for the crime perpetrated against them. It is now the job of our police forces and courts to show perpetrators this is not behaviour that will be tolerated."

Gemma Lindfield, a barrister within the family team at 5 St Andrew's Hill Chambers, agreed with Davison's sentiments, noting that:

"all too frequently the police can misunderstand the subtleties of domestic abuse and the genesis of it in a relationship".

She adds that by beginning a relationship with love bombing, abusers are then able to later down the line refer back to the "good times" and "give the impression that [they] have the victim's best interests at heart".

"Immediate abusive behaviour would not work, and therefore there has to be a period where there is an obvious showing of love and affection," she explains. "This phase can be incredibly intense and intoxicating and is commonly referred to as 'love bombing'. It makes a victim question the bad times and also make them more willing to find excuses for abusive behaviour."

Lindfield also shared hopes that police will now put greater emphasis on understanding the chronology of abuse. "Perhaps it will also stop the police from asking 'why does the victim stay?' if they can see the manipulation for what it really is. Being manipulated is a very confusing state for a victim to be in and it's important that when they report it, they have the ability to understand what has happened to them and that they aren't considered weak for falling prey to manipulative tactics."

Speaking about the new change to guidance, CPS' national lead for domestic abuse, Kate Brown, said, "Sometimes we see, particularly at the beginning of the relationship, a big showering of love and affection [...] We do not underestimate the impact of controlling or coercive behaviour on victims who can be forced to change their daily routines, left in fear of their life and totally consumed by this offending."

Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. You can also visit click here to request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse, see Refuge Tech Safety.

Gemma Lindfield is an experienced family, extradition, criminal and public law barrister with a particular focus on human rights. Gemma is ranked in Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500.

The full Cosmopolitan article can be found here, published on 25 April 2023.