“We’ve seen the mindset shift, coercive control trials will start to escalate.”

Activists hope the number of compulsory check-up cases brought to court will skyrocket after high-profile convictions helped raise awareness of the crime.

This week, two more men were convicted in separate coercive custody cases, bringing the total number of convictions to at least 10 since 2019.

On Tuesday, former Lake Garda Paul Moody was jailed for three years and three months.

The 43-year-old molested, threatened, assaulted, stole and controlled a woman with cancer for more than four years after they met online in 2017.

His victim recalled Moody telling her the only reason he had visited her while she was in the hospital was “to see you bleed to death.”

On Thursday, Dean Ward, formerly of Ballintlea, Hollyfort, Gorey, Co Wexford, was sentenced to 17 years in prison for raping, assaulting and forcibly controlling a woman over the course of a six-week relationship.

Ward sprayed Mace in her face, tied her up, choked her and then raped her, threatened her with a hammer and slapped her in the face.

He controlled her access to friends and family, took over her online banking, monitored her whereabouts and cell phone, and removed her birth control while she slept.

Coercive control, which refers to an intense pattern of controlling, abusive, manipulative or violent behaviour, was first criminalized in Ireland by legislation passed in 2018.

It made Ireland one of the few countries in the world to have criminalized emotional abuse.

According to An Garda Síochána, there were eight convictions for coercive measures between 2019 and 2021.

There have been more than 50 such charges since the law was passed.

Sarah Benson, executive director of Women’s Aid, said a lot of work has been done training gardaí and watching coercive control cases make their way through the legal system.

“We hope now that we will see a snowball effect and an acceleration in the number of cases to come, and I believe that is happening,” Ms Benson said.

She said a “change in mentality” was needed in the criminal justice system after coercive control was criminalized.

“We are so used to people being prosecuted for a single incident. For example, a sexual assault that happened at a specific time under specific circumstances.

“Whereas coercive control is what a domestic violence relationship is, and it is a pattern of behavior over a period of time that in some cases has an incremental but in some cases an acute impact on a victim.

“What we’re seeing is someone campaigning over an extended period of time, employing tactics, some of which may not be a crime in themselves, but others are part of an overall pattern.”

Ms Benson said abusers were initially charged with coercive control alongside other often physically violent offences.

However, as public understanding of coercive control has increased, Ms Benson said her organization is now encountering examples of people being accused of coercive control
standalone crime.

“We are now seeing instances of coercive checks that could involve ongoing harassment, phone call bombing or isolation,” she said.

“I think our public awareness of how severe coercive checks can actually be will hopefully help our legal system to prosecute cases of coercive checks on its own.”

The former Garda Moody was sent to jail this week after prosecutors agreed to a plea deal.

Ms Benson said there were a number of factors in the Moody case that influenced prosecutors’ decision to accept a deal, including the health of its victim, who is terminally ill.

However, she added that the maximum sentence of five years for compulsory control seemed low given the nature of the crime.

“It makes you think, if it’s going to come to pleas, should we have to rely on multiple charges for someone who exercised coercive control to get a long sentence?” She said.

“Especially when you consider that other offenses such as physical abuse and harassment are actually evidence of coercive control.

“If we had a higher penalty for coercive measures, would that make the system more effective and especially easier for survivors?

“It’s something to consider and it’s relatively early for legislation.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/we-have-seen-mindsets-shifting-court-cases-over-coercive-control-will-start-to-snowball-41878278.html “We’ve seen the mindset shift, coercive control trials will start to escalate.”

Fry Electronics Team

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