8 Mar 2016

Government backs strangulation law change

5:14 pm on 8 March 2016

The Law Commission is recommending making non-fatal strangulation a crime separate to assault, and has strong backing from the government.

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Photo: 123rf

The utter terror that is experienced by these victims and the known relationship between strangulation and future fatal attack requires a stronger criminal justice response for these offenders," the commission's president Sir Grant Hammond said.

"Strangulation is an act that is designed to control and manipulate the victims."

The commission said studies had shown that if a woman was strangled, there was a high risk of her being killed in the future by her attacker.

Perpetrators were often charged with low-level offences, and a stronger criminal justice response was needed, it said.

"In at least half of all cases, strangulation does not result in an obvious external injury even when victims suffer internal injuries or serious mental harm," it said.

"The lack of obvious external injury makes it difficult to lay serious charges against the perpetrator."

The commission tabled a report Strangulation: The case for a new offence in the House of Representatives this morning.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said in a domestic violence context, strangulation can have a devastating and long-lasting psychological impact.

There was strong evidence for a new offence, and a law change would fit alongside the government's review of family violence laws.

"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," she said.

"Creating a specific strangulation offence would bring New Zealand in line with international laws and practices."