SWINDON Women’s Aid has welcomed news of a consultation on changes in the law to protect victims of domestic abuse.

The consultation, announced by the Home Secretary, proposes to criminalise controlling and coercive behaviours.

It aims to protect victims who experience non-violent abuse in their relationships.

Olwen Kelly, the director of Swindon Women’s Aid, said: “I welcome the Government’s consultation and strongly believe that the criminilisation of coercive control and psychological abuse should be implemented.

“We support many victims who suffer non-violent abuse on a daily basis.

“This can include not being allowed to go out to see family or friends, being told what they can or can’t wear, having their mobile phones monitored and being threatened, humiliated and verbally abused.

“Currently psychological abuse is not taken into account within the criminal justice system so the police are powerless to respond effectively to it.

“A change in legislation will provide the police and other agencies with the means to provide better protection for victims and bring abusers to justice for this unacceptable behaviour.”

Earlier this year, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered chief constables to come up with domestic abuse action plans by September.

Last year ministers redefined domestic abuse, telling forces and other criminal justice agencies that it included both violence and acts of psychological control that left victims frightened.

Although there are already several laws that cover acts of violence, stalking and harassment, there is not one that refers to personal relationships.

The latest statistics reported in the Crime Survey for England and Wales suggest 30 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men will experience domestic abuse.

The Home Secretary said: “There can be no doubt that domestic abuse is an appalling crime. It shatters the lives of its victims, and in some cases, leads to tragic and untimely deaths.

“That is why tackling domestic violence and abuse has been one of this Government’s priorities.

“I know there is a range of strongly held views on this issue.

“This consultation does not prejudge the outcome. We want to hear the views of victims and those who work in this field to understand how we can offer the best protection against domestic abuse.

“Changing the law cannot be a substitute for the work I am leading to improve the police response.

“But this Government is committed to making sure the police have the best possible tools to do their job, and that the law provides the best possible protection to victims.

The consultation is available at www.gov.uk/government/ consultations until October 15.