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Coercive behaviour- a hideous form of control that needs highlighting

The terrible case of a man killing his wife and daughter before turning a gun on himself has brought the subject of coercive behaviour to the fore.

Lance Hart murdered his wife Claire and daughter Charlotte in 2016 and the recent report by the local council into the tragedy concluded that it is vital that professionals see the warning signs of coercive behaviour.

Hart, aged 57, had dominated his family for years. He killed his wife and daughter after the marriage had broken down, using a shotgun on them in a swimming pool car park, before turning the weapon on himself.

The local authority in Spalding, Lincolnshire has called for professionals, such as doctors and other agencies, to recognise the warning signs.

Safer Lincolnshire Partnership’s review detailed how Mrs Hart and her three children, (two sons survive), had been victims of coercive control abuse by her husband for many years, without them realizing it.

The review said that Mrs Hart had told her local GP shortly before her death, that pain from a facial condition had become worse due to marital stress.

However, as she did not “indicate any domestic abuse or fear of domestic abuse,” her doctor had not raised further queries.

The report recommends that health professionals should question patients more about domestic abuse.

It added: “This means it is vital for all professionals to be able to recognise the criminal cases of Coercive and Controlling behaviour and respond to them – as the victims themselves may not either see themselves as victims or be physically unable to break free,” the report said.

One of the sons, Ryan Hart said: “No one knew what to look for… unfortunately it was missed by us and we lived it.”. His brother Luke added: “We were living a personal hell and our father was dangerous.”

Coercive control became a criminal offence in 2015, demonstrating that domestic abuse is not just physical.

It is incredibly manipulative and reduces the victim to someone whose spirit is often crushed and without self-esteem, after repeatedly being told they are worthless by intimidating individuals.

At Dale and Newbery we welcome any publicity that can help individuals, mainly women and children, escape from the living hell they endure on a daily basis.

The subject of coercive behaviour will take some time to sink into the psyche of the public, but as family law specialists in Staines, we have, unfortunately, had experience of this type of abusive behaviour, and welcome all attempts to keep it in the spotlight.

If reading this has made you realise that you, or someone close, is a victim of coercive control, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can provide assistance in a sensitive and confidential manner. Your first 30 minute is free of charge.