An act of control

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Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823


A Sky News headline caught our eye a few days ago: ‘Judge condemns man who installed camera in living room to spy on his wife’.

According to the report, the man’s wife was shocked to find out about the camera. He, on the other hand, didn’t appear to think it was ‘out of the ordinary’ to install a spy camera that let him watch his wife when he wasn’t at home and to make recordings for later on. The Court said his conduct could not be justified ‘and must be condemned’.

Agreeing that this behaviour was ‘controlling’, the Court also heard that the man was violent towards his wife. He controlled the finances, making sure she didn’t have a bank account and giving her a small amount of money each week to provide for herself and their children.

While the particular facts of that family’s situation may be unusual, an element of control within relationships is not. There are all sorts of ways in which one partner may exert influence over the other and it isn’t always obvious to the victim that they are being controlled. In our experience of advising clients who have separated or are thinking of separating from their partner, there is sometimes a late realisation that for many months or years, they had been manipulated by that person.

Control isn’t always blatant. It can actually be quite subtle (“I don’t think you should spend time with that friend anymore”, or “That dress looks awful on you; wear this one”). It can also become the norm in relationships where, for example, one partner tends to hold the purse strings. This behaviour can build over time, which means the victim may not easily identify what is happening as control. Some even believe they are to blame for the way their partner behaves towards them.

As Family Law solicitors, we are not experts in the psychology around control, nor are we trained in counselling those involved in it. However we are specialists in finding a legal way out of a relationship for victims and in serious cases, taking urgent action through the courts to protect them.

If you are concerned about behavior or control at home, please contact us on or 01264 353411.

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