Police responses to coercive control

Developing a ‘coercive control learning tool’ for police.

Full report


This project aimed to analyse police responses to domestic abuse cases since the introduction of the coercive control offence. This research provides a much-needed empirical evidence base on the impact of the new coercive control legislation in the context of policing domestic abuse, to inform academic debate, policy and practice. The study was funded by N8 PRP 1st April 2017- 30th April 2018.

The project involved quantitatively and qualitatively analysing Merseyside Police domestic abuse data from January 2016-June 2017. With contributions from Merseyside Police, Women’s Aid and other valued advisors, the project findings have informed the development of a ‘coercive control learning tool’ to be used by police forces.

Key findings

  • Low use of the law, indicating issues with police understanding and recording of coercive control
  • Potential missed opportunities for identifying coercive control in broader domestic abuse cases, such as ABH.
  • Issues identified with police investigation and prioritisation of coercive control offences, compared to other types of domestic-abuse-related crime.
  • Particularly low arrest and solved rate in comparison to other types of domestic abuse-related crime, such as ABH.
  • Problems identified with effectively evidencing coercive control
  • Issues with officers recognising the extent and implications of risk in coercive control cases


Research authored by: Charlotte Barlow (Lancaster University), Sandra Walklate (University of Liverpool), Kelly Johnson (Lancaster University), Les Humphreys (Lancaster University) and Stuart Kirby (UCLAN).