Controlling father
Domestic Abuse

Controlling father found to be “profoundly dangerous”

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Walker Family Law
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Controlling father found to be “profoundly dangerous”

Similar fact evidenceControlling father

We wrote here last September about a case in which a mother responding to the father’s application for contact with their children had sought to use ‘similar fact’ evidence.

Similar fact evidence is evidence that does not directly relate to the case in hand, but is so similar to the evidence in the case that it can be relevant.

The mother claimed that the father had subjected her to extreme coercive and controlling behaviour, included alienating her from friends and family, and to sexual abuse, and that he had subjected another woman, with whom he began a relationship shortly after she and the father separated, to strikingly similar behaviour.

Initially the court refused to allow the mother to adduce the similar fact evidence. However, the mother appealed against that decision, and the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.

The case was passed to Mr Justice Hayden in the High Court. He has now considered the evidence, and made his findings. They make sobering reading.

Coercive and controlling

As indicated, the mother’s case was largely based upon her allegation that the father had subjected her to coercive and controlling behaviour. Sadly, this is an allegation that arises quite often in family cases.

But what exactly does ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’ mean?

Well, as Mr Justice Hayden explained: “‘coercion’ will usually involve a pattern of acts encompassing, for example, assault, intimidation, humiliation and threats”, and “’Controlling behaviour’ really involves a range of acts designed to render an individual subordinate and to corrode their sense of p

coercive control

ersonal autonomy.”

Key to both behaviours, he said, is an appreciation of a ‘pattern’ or ‘a series of acts’, the impact of which must be assessed cumulatively and rarely in isolation.

This can sometimes make coercive and controlling behaviour difficult to identify. As Mr Justice Hayden indicated, individual acts, seen in isolation, will often not be seen to be particularly serious. However, when seen as part of a pattern, the true picture can become clear.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is often insidious. At first, the victim may think little of it. Only later will they realise that something awful is happening to them, by which time they may have suffered serious harm.


So what were Mr Justice Hayden’s findings?

Well, we couldn’t go through them all in this short post. His judgment runs to 113 paragraphs, and if you wish you can read it here. The following is just a very brief summary.

Mr Justice Hayden found that the consideration of both cases (in relation to the father’s relationship with the mother and his relationship with his subsequent partner) “together served to illuminate the sinister, domineering and, frequently, tyrannising complexion of [the father’s] behaviour, to a degree which would not have been fully appreciated had the cases been severed.” He went on: “It is the chilling repetition of identical behaviours, with two very different women of different age and background, which casts evidential light and does so in each individual case.”

And he concluded:

“I consider [the father] to be a profoundly dangerous young man, dangerous to women who he identifies as vulnerable and dangerous to children. The risks he presents to women are not only to their emotional and physical well-being but also, in the light of my findings, to their sexual safety. It is clear that he has the capacity to cause much harm and distress to those who cross him more generally, particularly those within the sphere of the women he controls. It has been a disturbing case to hear.”


Getting help

If you feel that your partner is subjecting you to coercive and controlling behaviour it is essential that you seek help, as soon as possible. There are many types of help available, and we can assist you in finding it.

For example, you could apply to the court for an injunction to prevent your partner from molesting you, or even requiring them to leave your home.

To find out more, and to get started with one of our specialist lawyers, click here.

Ian Walker team


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