Coercive or controlling domestic abuse becomes a crime punishable by up to five years in prison from Tuesday, even if it stops short of physical violence.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s new powers have been introduced as Citizens Advice reports a steep rise in the number of victims seeking help over the past year.
The charity said it had supported more than 5,400 people suffering from domestic abuse in the 12 months to October 2015, including 3,000 cases of emotional abuse and 900 of financial abuse.
The new legislation will enable the CPS to bring charges where there is evidence of repeated, or continuous, controlling or coercive behaviour within an intimate or family relationship.
The CPS said 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.
Controlling or coercive behaviour is defined under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 as causing someone to fear that violence will be used against them on at least two occasions, or generating serious alarm or distress that has a substantial effect on their usual day-to-day activities.