MPs will debate a new offence of ‘non-fatal strangulation’ contained in the Domestic Abuse Bill. According to the legal charity Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), non-fatal strangulation is a known high-risk indicator in domestic abuse cases leading to homicide ‘yet it is often only charged as common assault, if at all, when reported to the police’. The group reckons it is the second most common method by which men kill women.
‘Non-fatal strangulation is a gendered crime,’ commented Nogah Ofer, solicitor at Centre for Women’s Justice. ‘It is a well-known risk factor for serious domestic violence and homicide. It is also frequently used as a tool to exert power and control, and to instil fear. It sends the message that ‘if you do not comply, this is how easily I can kill you’. The new offence will be presented to the parliamentary committee examining the bill by Jess Phillips MP. So far 63 MPs have signed up to support the legislation.
‘Strangulation is often charged as “common assault” which makes it equivalent to a slap or a blow that leaves a bruise,’ the charity says. ‘CPS guidance that strangulation should be treated as ABH is frequently ignored. Many cases are closed because a six-month time limit for common assault has passed.’
Whilst non-fatal strangulation leaves little or no marks on the body and ‘minimised by police and prosecutors’, the CWJ argue it is ‘extremely dangerous’ and in almost of three out of 10 instances of women killed by men (29%) the method used is strangulation or asphyxiation. ‘Anne-Marie had been strangled in the past by her partner, but the police didn’t recognise that meant that she was more likely to be killed by him,’ said Cathy McIntosh, sister of Anne-Marie Nield, who was murdered by her partner.
Harriet Wistrich, CWJ director, said ‘a simple amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, making non-fatal strangulation a specific serious offence could provide a remedy and help reduce femicide’.