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  • Arthurs Solicitors

Shining a light on Coercive Control

Updated: Apr 15, 2021


The judgement handed down in the case of F v M [2021] EWFC 4, by His Honourable Justice Hayden does not make for easy reading however the findings are very important for victims of coercive abuse. HHJ Hayden emphasised ‘it is crucial.. that key to this particular form of domestic abuse is an appreciation that it requires an evaluation of a pattern of behaviour in which the significance of isolated incidents can only truly be understood in the context of a much wider picture.’ [60].

This case looks at two women - and one man (“F”). The first victim’s (M”’s) relationship with F started when they were young, at university. As her first real relationship and being unworldly F preyed on the M’s vulnerabilities and M fell pregnant shortly thereafter.

M attempted very early on to get some “space” from F as she was overwhelmed by his behaviour and left university briefly to be with her parents. F systematically sought to isolate M from her parents. F amongst other allegations reported M as being kept against her will and mentioned "possible kidnapping by her parents. F also bombarded M with messages and made threats to commit suicide. F later on asserted that M's return to her parents was a form of "honour-based violence". Sadly, M reconciled with F and it took a considerable length of time before she was able to finally separate from him under dire circumstances.

For the second victim (“Ms J”) it occurred when she was in her mid-forties with life experience behind her, an established career, her own home and two loving children.

F isolated her from her friends and family and relocated her and her two children to Cardiff. It transpired that they had been living in Cardiff in a one room flat and from all accounts Ms J had lost sight of the children’s welfare interests.

Ms J’s father (Mr G) in desperation on becoming aware of her and the children’s whereabouts drove to Cardiff to ascertain whether they were being held against their will. He attended the children’s school and described them as being “so happy and relieved to see him” On seeing him F instructed Mrs J to "drive, drive, drive", whilst pushing [one of the boys] head in to the car and shouting at him to "get in the car".

It was highlighted in the judgement that just as F had “demonised” M's parents as "honour based" fanatics, he manipulated the incident at the school and portrayed Mr G as the aggressor. Thereafter Ms J and F obtained an ex parte non-molestation order against Mr. G. The grandparents were joined in the children act proceedings. Thereafter, Ms J's friends and social services received threatening messages alleging to be from Ms J. It was highlighted that it was apparent from the style of writing that these messages were not written by Ms J but in fact from F. Indeed, one of the messages purportedly sent by Ms J to social services read “Keep the kids” the Judge held that “though I consider Ms J to have become deeply deluded in her assessment of F's personality, I do not consider she would ever willingly have written the phrase " Keep the kids ". the social worker came to the same conclusion.

The pattern of F’s behaviour was exposed throughout the case as calculated and controlling - emotionally, psychologically, and financially. The F took control of both victim’s lives subtlety and cleverly. He quickly secured marriage with both of his victims, on his own terms and by isolating the victims’ families, quite remarkably.

Contrastingly, the F was able to convince a number of professionals that it was he who was the victim, using charged language as a significant tool. M managed to escape him after several years, and significant trauma. This case relates to the F’s application for contact with his two children born from that relationship.

The second victim, Ms J’s life has unravelled significantly and the F’s influence over continues but it is hoped this will change in the future and she will come back to those who love and wish to support her.

The level of manipulation from F on not only his partners, but their families is disturbing, and ongoing. This case illustrates the dark realities of coercive and controlling behaviour, and the impact on the victim.

Coercive and controlling behaviour is defined in the Family Procedure Rules 2010 PD12J:

"coercive behaviour" means an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim;

"controlling behaviour" means an act or pattern of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour;"

Read the full judgement here F v M [2021] EWFC 4 (15 January 2021) (bailii.org) See also A County Council v LW & Anor [2020] EWCOP 50 ( for definitions of Coercive & controlling behaviour -this is not an exhaustive list)

Mary-Joyce Insaidoo and Elaine Flynn

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