The Department of Justice has announced the specific offence of non-fatal strangulation and asphyxiation will come into force today.
The new offence strengthens the law and recognises the serious harm caused by this type of crime, attracting significant penalties with a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment in the most serious cases.
Richard Pengelly, CB, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Justice said “This new offence provides greater protection for victims and seeks to address the seriousness of this type of offending behaviour.
“This crime can affect anyone and can occur in a number of circumstances. However, there are those who use strangulation and asphyxiation to exert control and fear in others, including in cases of domestic abuse. Research shows that this type of abuse is eight times more likely to result in domestic homicide.
“No matter the circumstances for this behaviour occurring and whether harm is intended or not, the consequences can be far reaching. In recognition of the serious harm it causes, this new offence carries greater penalties than were previously available and today marks another step forward in making our community safer.
“I am grateful to justice partners in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Public Prosecution Service and Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service for their work to bring this new offence into operation. I would encourage anyone who suffers this type of crime to report it and seek support.”
The new stand-alone offence of non-fatal strangulation was introduced through the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022. It carries maximum sentences of 2 years’ imprisonment in the magistrates’ courts or 14 years in the Crown Court.
The offence will apply to any case where intentional asphyxiation or strangulation occurs. Where it results in serious harm, the fact that the victim consented in the context of a sexual act will not be a defence.
The offence will also apply where strangulation or suffocation is committed abroad by a Northern Ireland national or by a person who is habitually resident in Northern Ireland, as if the offence had happened in Northern Ireland.
Strangulation or suffocation can be caused by intentionally doing anything that might affect a person’s ability to breathe, or the flow of blood to their brain.
It can cause serious harm resulting in a number of possible injuries, many of which leave no marks.
A list of some of the serious physical and psychological effects which can be caused, as well as further information on seeking help are available on the NIDirect website.
Notes to editors:
- The new stand-alone offence of Non-Fatal Strangulation was introduced through the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022.
- The penalties for the new offence are:
- up to 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine up to £5000 when prosecuted in the magistrates’ courts, and
- up to 14 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine when prosecuted in the Crown Court.
- Strangulation or suffocation can be caused by intentionally doing anything that might affect a person’s ability to breathe, or the flow of blood to their brain. This would include, for example:
- using a hand or hands around the victim’s neck
- putting pressure on the victim’s neck using a body part like a foot, arm, knee, or anything else
- pulling tightly using an object like a scarf or belt around the neck
- covering the mouth and nose to prevent breathing
4. Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email.
5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.
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