Non-fatal strangulation will likely become a specific criminal offense in England and Wales next month. Presently, it falls under common assault, which allows perpetrators to serve light sentences. Under the proposed change, it would carry a maximum sentence of seven years.
The Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which has long advocated for the change, underlined the physical impact of strangulation in a press release, saying “lack of oxygen can lead to long-term brain damage and even stroke. This is very serious violence, but often there is little visible injury afterwards.” Non-fatal strangulation is often also a warning of more violence to come. A 2020 study on intimate partner violence noted, “If a woman has been strangled by her partner, the risk of attempted murder increases sevenfold.”
CWJ pushed for the new offense to be included in a recent domestic abuse bill. The attempt ultimately failed, but the proposal garnered crucial support from Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland. Buckland now hopes to include the offense in a police and sentencing bill next month. CWJ announced that it is “delighted that the Lord Chancellor has listened” to advocates and politicians who support the change.
The proposal comes at a crucial moment for domestic abuse survivors. A November 2020 study by the Office for National Statistics reported an “increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the coronavirus pandemic.” The study acknowledged that the increase may be due to the lockdown or may simply reflect better reporting of domestic abuse offenses. It also suggested that the higher reporting volume may be due to “an increase in the severity of abuse being experienced” and not an increase in total victims.