5 Dec 2018

Strangulation legislation enforced on day one

3:05 pm on 5 December 2018

Police have made their first arrest under new family violence legislation that came into force this week.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The 21-year-old Manukau man was charged with strangulation following a family violence incident on Monday.

That day, new legislation came into force with a stronger penalty for strangulation.

The new offence of strangulation or suffocation carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Previously there was no separate offence for strangulation as it was treated as assault.

These changes, as part of the Family Violence Amendment Act, are designed to help curb family violence. The legislation was spearheaded by the former National government and passed unanimously last month.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Ellwood said the arrest showed how important the legislation was.

"We know that strangulation is a serious risk marker in family harm situations.

"There is obviously significant risk to victims, and it is often a precursor for more serious violence, including homicide," he said.

The victim gave a video statement and the new family violence legislation also means victims have a right to have their video statements played in court.

Under the legislation, police will no longer have to apply to court to have the videos played on behalf of the victims.

"This new way of recording a victim's statement has been a success.

"We have seen vastly improved victim experience, a large reduction in the time taken to take a statement, and a significant improvement in the quality of evidence police are gathering," Detective Ellwood said.

"Family violence continues to remain a significant issue for far too many New Zealanders and we are committed to reducing the harm it causes."

Police said the holiday season can see a rise in the incidents of family violence.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Ellwood said the issue of strangulation was something that had been on the radar for some time.

"The pre-exisiting charging regime we had didn't really cover strangulation very well for us and I think what we're going to see over the next wee while are more and more charges being laid and we'll get a good reflection of the extent of the problem."

Previously, Mr Ellwood said generally the police would default to a charge of assault with intent to injure, which carries a maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment.

"When you consider that we are talking one step away from actually stopping someone from breathing permanently, that probably didn't really reflect the seriousness of the offending."

Where to get help:

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

]http://www.victimsinfo.govt.nz/ Victim Support]: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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