ACTION to extend the definition of domestic violence and for it to include abusive teenage relationships have been welcomed.

The definition will now cover psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour and apply to victims who are 16 and 17.

It means non-violent acts such as stopping partners from leaving the house, or having access to a phone could lead to a prosecution.

Earlier this month Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle led a major debate in Parliament on the issue.

He said: “Domestic violence is close to my heart, because I have seen at first hand how it tears families, communities and people apart.”

He cited the work of a number of organisations working in East Lancashire including Lancashire Probation Service, the Domestic Violence Initiative and Pendle Women’s Centre and Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Domestic Abuse Team.

The changes will be implemented in March 2013, following pressure from local authorities, police and women’s organisations.

Rossendale and Darwen Tory MP Jake Berry said: “I am delighted that the government is serious about tackling domestic violence in all forms. I think it is far more widespread than most people think.”

Rachel Horman is head of domestic violence and forced marriage issues with the law firm Watson Ramsbottom which has offices in Blackburn, Darwen and Great Harwood and Accrington.

She is the current legal aid family lawyer of the year said she welcomed the expansion to 16 and 17 year-olds and attempts to increase the arrest rate for domestic violence.

However, she doubted within the current legal framework that arrests would rise.

She said: “It would certainly help if a new offence of coercive control was created because I think that gives the police much more to work with.

“As it stands the government is expecting the police to prosecute under the protection from harassment act, which is already notoriously under-used by the police.”

She called for training for the police, prosecutors and judges to understand “the devastating effects of psychological abuse”.