Strangulation to be made a specific crime

STRANGULATION is to be made a specific crime in New Zealand after a recommendation by the Law Commission that has been welcomed by Justice Minister Amy Adams.

Ms Adams said strangulation was "an abhorrent act", that was 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 said.

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.

However, at present non-fatal strangulation is either not prosecuted, or offenders are charged with only generic assault offences.

"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 said.

"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."

Ms Adams said in the next few weeks she would consider the Law Commission's report, and then take recommendations to Cabinet.

The Law Commission report made recommendations that included:

  •  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.

The Law Commission report released today is the second of three family violence and sexual violence projects Ms Adams tasked the commission with.

The first report made recommendations about how the justice system could better respond to sexual violence victims. The third, due for completion soon, is reviewing laws relating to victims of family violence who kill their abusers.

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