Legislation that comes into force today paves the way for charges to be brought in domestic abuse cases where there is evidence of repeated “controlling or coercive behaviour” for the first time.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation or stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.

Cases will be heard in either magistrates’ or Crown Courts and the maximum sentence is five years imprisonment.

Lucy Hastings, Director for Victim Support, said: “Coercive control is one of the most common forms of domestic abuse, and this new law sends a clear message that it is a serious offence with damaging consequences for victims.

“Creating this new offence will allow the police to investigate domestic abuse more thoroughly, protecting more victims from falling into a cycle of abuse which, as our charity knows, often gets worse and worse.

“It is so important that victims receive the support that they need and deserve. Anyone affected by crime can contact Victim Support regardless of when the crime took place or whether or not it has been reported to the police.”

Further information about the new law can be found on the Crown Prosecution Service website.