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New laws outline strangulation and suffocation as specific offences

Effective from today, the new laws will allow prosecutors to charge abusers specifically with non-fatal strangulation and suffocation.

New legal guidance has also been published and contains definitions for the offences. Non-fatal strangulation is applicable to those who intentionally strangle another person, and non-fatal suffocation to those who do any act that affects someone’s ability to breathe and constitutes battery.

The guidance clarifies that strangulation does not require a certain level of force or pressure and does not require injury - prosecutors do not need to prove that the perpetrator intended to cause injury.

The offences were originally introduced via the Section 70 Domestic Abuse Act 2021, but are applicable in all cases not just those involving domestic abuse.

Within the guidance is a non-exhaustive list of how the offences can manifest including via chokehold, head lock and pressure on the neck from a foot or knee for strangulation.

Lawyers are asked to consider where they would be a more appropriate charge than ABH, GBH and battery.

They will each carry a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, but the offences are not retrospective.

Prosecutors and investigators are asked to take an ‘offender-centric’ approach, looking at the behaviour of the defendant – including officers looking at the actions of the suspect before, during and after the incident itself.

Kate Brown, CPS lead for Domestic Abuse prosecutions said:

“Protecting victims from these ‘hidden harms’ is paramount. Sadly, because this type of offending may leave no physical mark the serious nature of it has not always been appreciated.

“We understand the devastating life-long effects domestic abuse can have on victims. The welcomed new legislation will mean prosecutors and investigators have more charging powers to protect victims and their families from all-too-often repeat offending.

“Our prosecutors are determined to see justice done in every possible case, and where there is sufficient evidence and our legal test is met, we won’t hesitate to prosecute.

“We are developing training for prosecutors to ensure the offences are properly identified from the outset.”

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