New strangulation laws to protect victims

Tue 6th Dec 2022

Non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation have now been recognised as specific offences under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Iynaiya Afzal looks at what this new law will mean for victims…

In a year where women’s safety has been in the headlines all too often, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has been updated to include non-fatal strangulation as a specific offence with new powers to charge offenders.

The revised Act includes a wide-ranging definition of abuse and although it may not leave visible marks on the victim, non-strangulation and non-fatal suffocation are now considered chargeable offences under Section 70. This form of abuse is often used to control or create fear in the victim.

The law also recognises children as being victims too, including them seeing, hearing, or experiencing the effects of domestic abuse.

New definitions

Sections one to three of the new Act for England and Wales set out a new statutory definition of domestic abuse. It now includes any of the following:

  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Violent or threatening behaviour
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological, emotional, or other abuse

It can also be reported as a singular incident and does not have to be a repeat offence to be considered domestic abuse. The definitions of physical abuse have now been broadened.

Non-fatal strangulation offence

From 7 June 2022, non-fatal strangulation became a criminal offence giving prominence to a serious form of violence. Often leaving no physical marks, it has been considered an invisible offence and hard to prosecute under Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). However, in recognising this offence it will give greater powers to the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in charging individuals.

While men do also experience domestic violence, it is estimated that women are in the majority. One in four women compared to one in seven men have been a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime. Women’s charities estimate that every year 20,000 UK women experience non-fatal strangulation or suffocation.

Studies also show that victims are seven times more likely to be murdered by partners if they have experienced non-fatal strangulation. Many victims will not be left with visible ‘evidence’ after this method of abuse occurs. Because of this, victims may ask themselves if their experience is sufficient enough to come forward.

However, now individuals can feel empowered in the knowledge that while they may not bear the physical marks, they can still seek justice for this violent crime.

Perpetrators from England and Wales can also be charged for offences committed overseas.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

When someone is a victim of domestic abuse, there are currently several protection orders available to help them. There are Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs), Restraining Orders and Non-Molestation Orders to name a few.

Currently, a DVPN can be handed to a perpetrator by a Senior Police Officer at the scene of an incident. These are effective for 48 hours and mean the perpetrator must leave the premises without contacting the victim.

Within the 48 hours, the police must make an application to the court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO). The offender will not be able to contact or return to the victim’s residence for 28 days.

With the introduction of the new Domestic Abuse Act 2021, DVPNs and DVPOs will be replaced. Instead, Domestic Abuse Protection Notices (DAPN) and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPO) will be issued. These will work in the same way as the previous protections. They will protect victims from all forms of domestic abuse as set out in the new definitions. This includes non-physical abuse and controlling behaviour.

Where can victims go for help?

If you are in danger, please dial 999 or 101 for a non-emergency. If you cannot speak, then cough or tap on the handset or press 55 if prompted from a mobile. If you are deaf or cannot use a phone, text REGISTER to 999, and you will receive a text telling you what to do next.

At Coodes, we welcome the move to recognise non-fatal strangulation as a legal offence. We hope that victims know that their experience alone is sufficient to come forward. Many will be unaware of this change in the law, which is why we want to highlight the issue.

We hope that in time, this change, and further changes, will encourage more victims of domestic abuse to feel confident and empowered enough to bring forward allegations.

We have a team of domestic abuse specialists who can help to separate you from your abuser. As well as this, we can provide legal advice, put injunctions in place and offer support. We also work with charities and organisations that refer domestic abuse cases to us. From there, our Family Law team can progress matters in a legal way.

Coodes have lawyers within both the criminal law and family law sectors and can work hand in hand to support and give confidence to our clients.

Legal Aid is available for victims of domestic abuse. Find out more here.

If you are affected by any of these issues and need legal advice, please email the Family team at Coodes Solicitors or call us on 0800 328 3282.

Other places you can go to for help

If you are experiencing any form of domestic abuse, there are plenty of charities and services available to help you.

Safer Futures provide eight support programmes to help victims of domestic abuse within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

First Light is a charity for people in Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire offering local helplines and support services. They support everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Women’s Aid is a national charity for women and children affected by domestic abuse, with a 24-hour helpline as well as online services.

Tue 6th Dec 2022

Iynaiyá Afzal

Trainee Solicitor

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