MORE than 200 coercive control offences were recorded by Gwent Police last year, new figures reveal.

Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid warns that domestic abuse remains at “epidemic levels” across England and Wales, and has called for more training for criminal justice professionals.

Coercive control – introduced as a new offence in 2015 – is behaviour used by an abuser to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. It can include assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation.

Gwent Police recorded 220 coercive control offences in 2018-19. Across Wales, 1,037 were recorded.

Gwent Police lead for domestic abuse, Detective Chief Inspector Steven Maloney said: “Together with our partners, we have worked hard to develop an increasingly sophisticated response to domestic abuse investigations and ensure we take a victim-centred approach to any action taken.

“Although we have provided training around the subject of coercive control, in 2020 we are looking to provide further training called Domestic Abuse matters. This will allow us to train officers and staff in identifying controlling and coercive behaviour.

“We’re working to make sure all victims have greater confidence to report incidents to the police.

"If you have experienced domestic abuse or someone you know has, we would urge you to seek support and report it to us. You can report it to us on 101 or you can send a direct message to our Gwent Police Facebook or Twitter social media pages. Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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The new crime was highlighted by the high-profile case of Sally Challen, who killed her husband with a hammer at their home in 2010.

She was originally found guilty of murder, but her conviction was quashed by the court of appeal earlier this year, with the judge saying the killing came after "years of controlling, isolating and humiliating conduct" by her partner.

This is the first year that figures have been released broken down by police force area.

However, across England and Wales, the number has almost doubled from 9,053 in 2017-18 to 17,616 last year.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said such increases are “common” for new offences, and that the rise could be down to increased recognition by police officers.

Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: "Domestic abuse remains at epidemic levels, with an estimated 1.6 million women experiencing domestic abuse last year alone.

“Despite this, police are making fewer referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and there has been a decrease in the proportion of female victims reporting domestic abuse to the police.”

CPS data shows that 1,177 coercive control offences reached a first magistrates’ court hearing across England and Wales in 2018-19, up from 960 the previous year.

Ms Claire said: "We are calling for all criminal justice professionals to be trained in the nature and impact of coercive control, to ensure that these cases are treated just as seriously as other domestic abuse-related offences.”

For advice and support contact Connect Gwent the victims’ hub on 0300 123 2133 or visit connectgwent.org.uk