13:33, January 10 44 0 theguardian.com

2021-01-10 13:33:04
Non-fatal strangulation set to become criminal offence in UK

The government is set to make non-fatal strangulation a specific criminal offence, with perpetrators facing up to seven years in prison after a sustained campaign from victims and activists.

The UK justice secretary, Robert Buckland, is hoping to add a new offence to a police and sentencing bill next month, it is understood.

Campaigners had pushed for a change in the law via the domestic abuse bill, with Lady Newlove, former victims’ commissioner putting down an amendment last Tuesday when the bill came to the House of Lords.

Current victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, called non-fatal strangulation a “domestic terror tactic”, and argued that a change in the law – including a specific offence – was required to help police tackle the “magnitude of the threat”.

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.

Baird said she was proud of the work campaigners had done to change the government’s stance. Previously the government had said non-fatal strangulation could be dealt with under existing legislation, such as common assault, but campaigners argued that minimised the seriousness of the crime and let perpetrators off with light sentences if they were charged at all.

“Non-fatal strangulation is a frequently used terrifying practice by domestic abuse perpetrators, to control their partner with people who are subjected to it seven times likelier to be killed by their partner,” she said. “Making non-fatal strangulation a standalone offence is long overdue and will raise awareness of the awful risk and suffering it involves – I congratulate Robert Buckland on listening.”

Nogah Ofer, solicitor at the Centre for Women’s Justice which has pushed for the change, said she hoped the move would help survivors of domestic abuse to have greater confidence to seek justice. “It is time that as a society we stopped normalising and ignoring strangulation,” she said. “We look forward to the police, prosecutors and medical professionals working together to address this with the seriousness it deserves.”

Buckland met domestic abuse campaigners last week. “I’ve heard too many terrible stories of women being throttled only to see abusers get a slap on the wrist,” he told the Sunday Mirror.

“Prosecutors don’t have the tools to make sure these violent criminals spend long enough behind bars.”

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