Law Commission recommends making non-fatal strangulation a specific crime

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The Law Commission has released its report looking at how best to respond to non-fatal strangulation. The report recommends introducing a new crime of strangulation into the Crimes Act 1961, with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.

Strangulation is a key red flag for future lethality in intimate partner violence. Justice Minister Amy Adams said “Family violence victims who have been strangled previously are seven times more likely to end up being killed than those who have suffered other non-strangulation forms of violence.”

The Law Commission found that police, judges and others who assist victims of family violence may not understand the risk of strangulation, including the risk of future lethality.

According to Ms Adams “Typically, non-fatal strangulation is either not prosecuted at all or perpetrators are charged with only generic assault offences.”

The report includes the following key recommendations:

  • introducing a new crime of strangulation into the Crimes Act 1961, with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment
  • requiring courts to record strangulation as a ‘family violence offence’ on a person’s criminal record
  • introducing a new aggravating factor of ‘strangulation in family violence circumstances’ that must be taken into account by judges at sentencing
  • adding questions to the police family violence incident report (POL 1310) to screen for strangulation
  • recoding on the Police National Intelligence Application (NIA) whether or not a family violence incident included an allegation of strangulation
  • educating police and judges about the prevalence, signs, symptoms and lethality of strangulation.

Ms Adams said she would consider the report and recommendations alongside the current review of family violence laws.

The Law Commission was asked by Minister Adams to examine non-fatal strangulation.

The Law Commission is separately looking at the legal system's response to family violence homicides committed by victims

The 2014 Family Violence Death Review Committee's report recommended the government consider creating a specific offence of non-fatal strangulation and strengthen the response to this issue (pp.98-101). The report highlighted that strangulation was reported as a feature of the abuse histories in current and/or previous relationships in 12 of the 17 regional death reviews carried out. Often there had been multiple non-fatal strangulations prior to a death and despite its serious consequences, strangulation was often minimised by victims and practitioners.

This week in Australia, a report was tabled to Queensland Parliament on a Bill that seeks to make non-lethal strangulation in domestic violence situations a crime. 

Additional reading

Justice Minister Amy Adams has recently released a summary of the almost 500 submissions made on the family violence legislative review.

You can find all Family Violence Death Review Committee reports by searching the NZFVC library for the term FVDRC.

Media

Stranglers no longer to get soft touch, Editorial: Stuff staff, Southland Times, 11.03.2016

Govt considering making strangulation a specific offence, Newstalk ZB, 09.03.2016

Antoine Dixon samurai victim backs plan to raise punishment for strangling, Stuff, 09.03.2016

Women’s Self Defence Network supports new move, Press Release: Women's Self Defence Network, Scoop, 09.03.2016

Full length video with Sir Grant Hammond, Law Commission President, Stuff, 08.03.2016

Strangulation recommended to be specific crime, Radio NZ (audio) recording, 08.03.2016

Strangulation to be made a specific crime, NZ Herald, 08.03.2016

New strangulation charge could be introduced, Newshub, 08.03.2016

Law Commission recommends a new offence for abusers who use strangulation on victims, Māori Television, 08.03.2016

Government backs strangulation law change, Radio NZ, 08.03.2016