February 26, 2021

HJ Talks About Abuse: Non-Fatal Strangulation Offence

In this episode of HJ Talks About Abuse, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss the proposed new criminal offence of “non-fatal strangulation”.

The offence was campaigned to be added to the Domestic Abuse Bill, as campaigned heavily by Baroness Newlove, but it appears instead it will be made a new offence under a police and sentencing bill in February 2021. Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland has been vocal regarding the Government support for this proposal.

Studies indicate that around 3% to 10% of the adult population have been subjected to strangulation, but the figure rises to 50-68% for victims of recurring abuse. Two studies of intimate partner violence and sexual assaults found that strangulation was involved in 20% and 23% of cases.

It is frequently used by domestic abuse perpetrators to control their partner with people who are subjected to it being seven times likelier to be killed by their partner. It is also the second most common cause of death for women as a result of domestic violence, after stabbing.

The Crown Prosecution Service currently charge perpetrators of strangulation under common assault. It may also be considered as an offence under the 2015 Serious Crime Act as coercive or controlling behaviour. The Government’s has, therefore, had the view that the proposed new offence is unnecessary.

However, significant campaigning has led to a change in the government stance. The Victim’s Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, for example, have voiced their support for the proposal.

It is argued that using the existing legislation of common assault minimises the seriousness of the crime and allows for perpetrators to receive a light sentence if charged at all. Common assault is a summary only offence that can be charged by police, whereas when domestic abuse is involved the matter should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The new offence is proposed to have a sentencing range of up to seven years in prison.

Furthermore, having an appropriately named offence will also raise awareness of the risk and suffering that strangulation involves.

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