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Strong evidence for new strangling offence


Hon Amy Adams

Minister of Justice

8 March 2016

Strong evidence for new strangling offence

Justice Minister Amy Adams has welcomed a recommendation from the Law Commission to make strangulation a specific crime, saying it fits well with the Government’s review of family violence laws.

“Strangulation is an abhorrent act. This is a deeply personal and intimidating form of violence. In a domestic violence context, it’s more than just a physical attack and can have a devastating and long-lasting psychological impact on victims,” Ms Adams says.

“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.

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

The Law Commission report found that current laws are inadequate to deal with this type of assault. It has made several recommendations, including:
· 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

· increasing education for Police and the judiciary.


“A standalone offence sends a clear-cut message that this form of abuse is unacceptable and recognises that strangulation can be a critical risk factor of escalating family violence. It would help increase public awareness and understanding and assist in the prosecution of perpetrators,” Ms Adams says.

“Creating a specific strangulation offence would bring New Zealand in line with international laws and practices. For example, the United Kingdom and three quarters of states in the United States have offences relating to strangulation.

“Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a close look at the Law Commission’s report before taking recommendations to Cabinet. This work will sit alongside our comprehensive review of family violence laws, which explores a range of new family violence offences.”

The new Law Commission report is the second of three family violence and sexual violence projects Ms Adams asked the Law Commission to progress. The first report, released in December, made recommendations about how the justice system responds to victims of sexual violence. The third report, due to be completed soon, is reviewing the laws relating to victims of family violence who kill their abusers.

The Law Commission’s report can be found on the Law Commission’s website: www.lawcom.govt.nz.

According to the Family Violence Death Review Committee:
· Strangulation is often minimised by practitioners and even by victims

· Six of 29 cases of strangulation reviewed resulted in convictions, with the most serious conviction being for “male assaults female”

· Just over half of the instances were reported to Police

· Over one-third resulted in charges (most as “male assaults female” charges)

· Strangulation was commonly reported in the abuse histories of homicide victims

· Many victims have been subjected to multiple instances of strangulation.


ends

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