Non-fatal strangulation to become criminal offence in the UK

The Government will make it a specific offence for abusers to strangle their partner with perpetrators facing jail for up to seven years.

Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, is set to close a loophole that allows hundreds of domestic abusers to escape punishment in spite of using strangulation to control their partners.

Police can only charge domestic abusers with assault causing actual bodily harm if there are lasting injuries, but strangulation is more frequently used to coerce victims and often leaves little sign of injury. 

Police can also take action under common assault laws, but campaigners say it is rarely prosecuted and instead is overlooked because of the few outward signs of injury or claims by the abuser that it was part of a sex game.

They say treating it as a common assault puts it on a par with a slap, underestimating the gravity of such an attack and the terror of near-death inflicted on a person through physical strength.

Now, Mr Buckland will make “non-fatal strangulation” a specific offence, which campaigners say will mean police will be required to investigate and take action.

He said: “I’ve heard too many terrible stories of women being throttled only to see their abusers get off with a slap on the wrist.” 

Conservative peer Baroness Newlove, the former victims’ commissioner, tabled an amendment to the domestic abuse bill to introduce an offence of non-fatal strangulation

Credit: Paul Grover

The move follows a move by Conservative peer Baroness Newlove, the former victims’ commissioner, to table an amendment to the domestic abuse bill to introduce an offence of non-fatal strangulation.

Louise Perry, of the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This, said: "This is an important step by the Government. We welcome the introduction of a specific non-fatal strangulation offence because existing law is not up to the task of prosecuting this kind of violence.

“We’ve heard from many victims of this terrible crime who felt that their assaults were not taken seriously: in some cases with police deciding not to mark it up as a crime.  

“This is despite existing Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance that these assaults should be prosecuted as ABH, or above: too often strangulation has been prosecuted as common assault, if prosecuted at all.”

More than half of women who are victims of domestic abuse say they have been strangled as part of this abuse, according to research.

And one in five women who have been sexually assaulted by their partner were also strangled in the assault, according to studies by Dr Catherine White, director of St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre.   

You may also like...