'It isn't just a shove': judicial understandings of domestic abuse and the challenges of recognising and responding to 'coercive control' in the criminal and family courts

Mandy Burton*, Vanessa Bettinson, Vanessa Munro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many jurisdictions there has been a shift in substantive criminal law to try to recognise coercive control as a form of domestic abuse. Empirical research has assessed the impact of criminalisation, but the main focus has been on policing rather than judicial understandings of coercive and controlling behaviour in domestic relationships. This article reports on an empirical study which examined the implementation of the new offences of coercive control in England and Wales and, comparatively, Scotland. It examined how judicial understandings of domestic abuse might impact on the way that cases are dealt with in both criminal systems. Though small-scale, it provides a much-needed update to research on lay magistrates’ attitudes to domestic abuse in England and Wales and gives new insights into their key role in criminal and family justice cases. It also explores how Scottish judges are influenced by their perceptions of juror understandings of coercive and controlling behaviour and the importance of professional and public education in this context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild and Family Law Quarterly
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Jan 2024

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