Justice secretary Robert Buckland is reported to be planning to add non-fatal strangulation as a new offence to a Police and Sentencing Bill.
The development comes after Baroness Newlove, the former victims’ commissioner, proposed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, during its passage through the House of Lords, to make non-fatal strangulation a criminal offence.
“More than half the victims of recurrent domestic abuse experience strangulation,” she said. “It is estimated that 20,000 women per year – or 55 women every day – who have been assessed as high risk and suffer physical abuse have experienced strangulation or attempted strangulation.”
A Bangor University and North Wales Brain Injury Service study last year found a woman who survives strangulation is eight times more likely to be murdered.
Buckland acknowledges the justice system treats non-fatal strangulation too leniently as it frequently leads to no charges or one of common assault, equivalent to a slap or a blow leaving a bruise, which carries a maximum prison term of six months.
Perpetrators of non-fatal strangulation will face up to seven years in jail under his proposals, though discussions are at an early stage, according to media reports.
“There are too many violent offenders not getting sentences proportionate to the seriousness of their crimes because in many cases, prosecutors don’t have adequate charging options where the victim has been strangled,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC. “The vast majority of these crimes are committed against women and they are often a precursor to even more serious violence.”
As non-fatal strangulation can be used in situations other than domestic abuse, the Ministry of Justice believes the legislation has a broader context than the Domestic Abuse Bill.