The first conviction in South Yorkshire under a new law designed to tackle controlling behaviour could lead to many more, according to police.
Sheffield man Mohammed Anwaar was jailed for 28 months for a prolonged series of attacks and restrictive, abusive behaviour towards his former partner Gemma Doherty.
Nine of the 10 counts he admitted at Sheffield Crown Court were related to specific violent incidents. But the 10th was a new charge of controlling or coercive behaviour, only brought in at the end of the year. For that alone Anwaar, from Charlotte Road, received a 12-month prison sentence in court today (Wednesday, May 18).
The 27-year-old told Miss Doherty who she could see, what she was allowed to wear and what not to eat. He forced her to use a treadmill every day, showing her pictures of other women’s bodies and telling her she did not look as good as they did.
The new law, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, was brought in to include such behaviours, which do not amount to violence but still cause someone to fear violence will be used against them, or generate serious alarm or distress that has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.
Abuse can include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation, or behaviour such as stopping a partner socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps or dictating what they wear.
In a victim statement read out to the court yesterday, Miss Doherty said the relationship had started out ‘perfect’ but everything changed in May 2015.
“I knew how quickly his mood could change over the smallest thing,” she said.
Miss Doherty described how she no longer had any self confidence and was worried because Anwaar had a large family and she didn’t want to go out in case she saw them.
“He ruined my daily life,” she said.
Detective Constable Ian Chamberlain, who investigated the case, said the new law gave South Yorkshire Police new powers to prosecute people who use coercive control, giving officers another way to tackle those who commit domestic abuse.
“In this case, both physical and mental abuse occurred over a prolonged period, and I would like to praise the woman in coming forward and reporting the matter to us,” he said.
“This has enabled us to not only bring Anwaar to justice for his actions, but to also provide this woman with the necessary support in order to help her move forward with her life.”
Superintendent Natalie Shaw, the force lead for domestic abuse, added: “This is the first successful conviction we have had under the new legislation regarding coercive control, and I am pleased that Anwaar is now behind bars for his actions.
“Domestic abuse is wide ranging and isn’t always clear to see upon first examination. Just because physical signs of abuse might not be present, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a victim of domestic abuse, and coercive control can be extremely damaging to a person.
“I’m pleased that coercive control is now legally recognised and we can continue to work with partners to effectively tackle domestic abuse cases and provide the support needed to those involved.
“I would also like to praise the bravery of the woman involved in this case as well as the work of the officers, which combined has helped to bring about this successful conviction.
“If you’re suffering from emotional, physical or psychological abuse, I’d encourage you to report it to someone.
“If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the police, there are a wide range of support agencies and charities you can speak to.
“Please know that help is available and you do not have to suffer.”
Mixed in with Anwaar’s controlling behaviour were violent attacks, the most serious of which in August last year brought a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm. After an argument over money, Anwaar first smashed Miss Doherty’s iPhone before attacking her with slaps and kicks, choking her and causing her to fall unconscious.
He assaulted her on five other occasions, often in front of her young sons. The most recent attack was on March 5 this year, again after an argument, and this was when police were called.
The court heard Anwaar slapped Miss Doherty two or three times around the back of the head, put his hands around her throat so she fell to the floor and choked her in a headlock. He continued the assault, hitting her again and calling her a dog.
Nicola Quinney, prosecuting, said Anwaar had held a knife to Miss Doherty’s throat, asking her if she wanted him to kill her, and saying he wasn’t scared of a life sentence.
During the attack, Miss Doherty’s son Ethan, three, was hiding under the bed.
Taking into account Anwaar’s previous convictions, which included several assaults causing actual bodily harm to other men, Judge Goose sentenced Anwaar to 16 months in prison for the assaults and criminal damage, and 12 months for the controlling and coercive behaviour. He also imposed a five year restraining order.
Following the sentencing, Nicola Lambe, of Sheffield domestic abuse charity Ashiana, said: “The new legislation has and will continue to help raise awareness around all types of domestic abuse which will help protect women who are or have experienced this type of abuse and to also understand that this is abuse and the fear that this can instil can be damaging.
“Now there is a new legislation, women are more likely to understand and seek the support that they need.
Sheffield city councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for health and social care, added: “Controlling or coercive behaviour can take many different forms and can involve making someone do something they don’t want to do, repeatedly causing a victim harm and limiting someone’s freedom and independence.
“This type of behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship, where one person holds more power than the other.
“There is support for people affected by all types of domestic abuse in Sheffield and we don’t want people to suffer in silence.”
There are several ways to report domestic abuse. Call police on 101, or 999 in an emergency; Sheffield Domestic Abuse on 0808 808 2241; the National Domestic Helpline on 0808 8000247; or Victim Support on 0845 3030900.