Manipulating a partner’s finances is to be treated as a form of domestic abuse for the first time, Telegraph Money has learned, but experts say victims seeking justice will continue to be left vulnerable by the legal system.
Every day, millions of people are deprived access to their finances by abusive partners, according to the charity Surviving Economic Abuse (Sea). The Government will respond to a consultation on the issue next week, insiders said, with a new Domestic Abuse Bill that will officially recognise economic abuse.
But Jenny Beck, a family lawyer at Beck Fitzgerald, said more needs to be done to help bring perpetrators to justice. She said: “Economic abuse leaves victims without financial resources to get legal help. Recognition must be accompanied by more legal aid.”
As neither economic nor domestic abuse is recognised as a criminal offence, for a prosecution to take place the abuse must fall under the terms of crimes such as grievous bodily harm or controlling or coercive behaviour.
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, founder of Sea, said a large proportion of economic abuse happens among wealthier families, particularly when the abuser works in a high-powered profession, such as law, management or finance.
Women are disproportionately affected. One victim, who preferred to remain anonymous, was with her abusive partner for more than 10 years. After she was promoted, her new husband quit his job, transferring his personal direct debits to their joint account without her knowledge.
“I was paying for his car, his loans, everything. Then he’d shout at me for not earning enough,” she said. “He’d threaten to hit me – which he often did anyway – if I told anyone the truth, and threatened my children too.”