This campaign is calling for a free-standing offence of non-fatal strangulation1 or suffocation to be added to the Bill. This can be done in the House of Lords where it will start its progress at a date yet to be fixed, but expected to be either this month or next. Non-fatal strangulation is a frequent tool of coercive control used against women by men. It is a threat to do serious harm or to kill but which often leaves no mark. Police do not take it seriously if there is no injury. Yet its use increases 8 fold the risk that the victim will ultimately be killed by the perpetrator. Sometimes there are injuries though they are not visible and women can suffer considerable damage. Please read the following briefing:
The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Centre for Women’s Justice and a large number of domestic abuse charities support this as essential to deter perpetrators and to save victims lives We are asking for your help to promote the need for the amendment, to lobby peers to speak and vote in favour of it and to lobby the relevant government ministers to persuade them to accept the amendment. The Commons Ministers are Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) and Victoria Atkins (Louth& Horncastle) the Lords Ministers are not yet known. The Government has said that it is ‘tepid’ as to whether there should be such an offence. We need to generate some heat!
The proposed amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill “New offence of non-fatal strangulation
A person (A) commits an offence if that person unlawfully strangles or suffocates another person (B).
A strangles or suffocates B if A impedes B’s breathing, blood circulation, or both, by doing any of the following (manually or using any aid): (i) blocking B’s nose, mouth, or
both; or (ii) applying pressure on, or to, B’s throat, neck, chest or more than one of these.
A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable –
(a) on summary conviction-
(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months (or 6 months, if the offence was committed before the coming into force of paragraph 24(2) of Schedule 22 to the Sentencing Act 2020), or
(ii) to a fine, or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to a fine, or both.”
A second version of the amendment limits the offence to domestic abuse cases only, where A and B are personally connected. The desired amendment is the first one but the second is in place in case there is an argument about whether the Bill can be used to criminalise behaviour which is not about Domestic Abuse, given its title.
The international picture
Under-charging of strangulation has been identified as a problem in the US, Australia and New Zealand.13 In the US 37 states have introduced non-fatal strangulation offences14 and in Australia the state of Queensland introduced the offence in 2016, with other states due to follow.15 A new offence came into force in New Zealand in December 2018.16 The New Zealand Commission considered that a new offence would be a more effective criminal sanction than the existing options and would increase awareness of the significant dangers of strangulation and generally improve the safety of victims of domestic abuse.17
A freestanding offence of strangulation or suffocation which is an ‘either way’ offence will require police to treat such cases with the gravity they deserve. It will also draw the attention of prosecutors to the seriousness of this form of offending, and trigger training around the particular links between strangulation / suffocation, domestic abuse and homicide. We believe it is necessary to deter perpetrators and to save lives.
For more information contact the Office of the Victims Commissioner firstname.lastname@example.org