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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduces new non-fatal strangulation offence

Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduces new non-fatal strangulation offence


Abusers may be imprisoned for up to five years

A new offence came into force today (7 June) which will mean abusers who strangle their partners in an attempt to control or induce fear may be imprisoned for up to five years.

Non-fatal strangulation was made a specific offence as part of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The offence will apply to any person who intentionally strangles or suffocates another person, affecting their victim’s ability to breathe in an attempt to control or intimidate them, including in cases of domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 amends the Serious Crime Act 2015, and introduces two new sections – section 75A and 75B – which will create a new and specific criminal offence of non-fatal strangulation and suffocation.

The offence has been introduced following concerns perpetrators were avoiding punishment as the act often leaves no visible injury, making it harder to prosecute under existing offences such as Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). 

Studies have shown victims are seven times more likely to be murdered by their partner if there had been non-fatal strangulation beforehand.

The new offence will also apply where strangulation or suffocation is committed abroad by a national or by a person who is habitually resident in England and Wales, as if the offence had happened in England or Wales, meaning perpetrators can be prosecuted in England and Wales for offences committed overseas.

The reforms come as the government seeks to improve outcomes for victims, in particular those of rape and sexual offences, for which convictions rose 27 per cent last year compared to before the covid-19 pandemic.

In March, the government announced victim support services would receive £440m in grant funding over the next three years to help fund more than 1,000 Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisors and a 24/7 rape crisis helpline.