Strangulation and suffocation offence introduced
Parliament has introduced new offences under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, to address ongoing concerns of domestic violence in the home, particularly towards women and children. One such offence is strangulation or suffocation (section 70).
What are the changes?
The new provision came into force on 7 June 2022 and amends the existing the Serious Crime Act 2015 to create (at section 75A) the new offence of non-fatal strangulation and by non-fatal suffocation. The offence is triable 'either-way', meaning it can be heard either in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court depending on seriousness or whether the defendant elects a jury trial.
When will this new law be used?
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has introduced legal guidance which includes common methods to cause or inflict non-fatal strangulation:-
- The use of hands against the neck
- The use of pressure in a hold or lock by using one’s arms or legs
- The use of an item around the neck to create external pressure
- Pressure from other parts of the body such as a foot, knee or side
The new offence is a crime of specific intent and hence cannot committed recklessly. In cases where recklessness is alleged, the CPS is likely to use existing legislation under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 or the Offences against the Person Act 1861 (common assault, ABH and GBH/unlawful wounding). Other considerations include whether the act resulted in injury, or there was a real risk of injury. This offence does not require there to be visible injury, but there needs to be sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the strangulation or non-fatal suffocation occurred, including but not limited to a victim's account, witnesses, audio or video footage, photographs, or medical evidence.
Where consent was given to engage in strangulation in its ordinary meaning or engaged in an activity of a similar nature, a statutory defence is available. The exception to this defence is where the act causes serious harm to the individual, or the party is reckless to the possibility of inflicting serious harm.
Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.