THE offence of coercive or controlling behaviour was introduced at the end of 2015 to close a gap in the law, and help victims experiencing extreme psychological and emotional abuse which stopped short of serious physical violence.

It does not relate to a single incident, but instead a “purposeful pattern of incidents that occur over time enabling someone to exert power and control, or coerce another”.

Behaviour of this nature by a partner, ex-partner, or family member, can lead to the victim losing control over their whole life, and the powerful testimony from the former girlfriend of kickboxer Ronnie Clark demonstrates the horrifying effect this can have.

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In a statement, she told Teesside Crown Court how she has been left weak and exhausted by the ordeal and is on medication to help her with anxiety. “Having the curtains open for one hour a day was an achievement for me,” she said.

Clark is believed to be the first person successfully brought to court under the law in North Yorkshire, 18 months on from its introduction – and if this is the case, despite such offences being difficult to prosecute, it is disappointing it has taken so long.

However, the nine-month jail term handed down to Clark sends out a clear message to those trying to control and coerce others in this way that their actions are unacceptable and will be dealt with through the legal system.

We applaud the bravery of the victim in this case, and by giving it such prominence in today’s Northern Echo, hope we can spread the word to other people in her position that there is help available to stop this type of damaging behaviour.