Choking a partner during sex could become a criminal offence in the UK under new domestic abuse legislation.
The proposal by campaigners comes after evidence revealed that one in five sex assault victims are strangled by their partner.
Choking or throttling is only punishable under common assault law, which carries a maximum sentence of six months. But domestic abuse groups have said perpetrators are rarely prosecuted because defendants only claim that choking takes place as part of consensual sex – and there can be little sign of physical injury.
According to the groups, treating choking as common assault undermines its severity and the terror inflicted on the victims.
The report said nearly a third of female murders in the UK were due to strangulation or suffocation in 2018, compared with three percent of male murders.
Former victims’ commissioner Baroness Newlove will present an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Lords that would turn non-fatal strangulation into a singular offence.
Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs and the current Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird both back the amendment.
Referring to choking, Dame Vera told The Daily Telegraph: ‘It is a very frequently used and very effective way of terrifying someone. It is a very frightening tool of coercive control.
‘For the same price as a tiny slap, you let her know you are in control but with only the risk of a tiny mark so police never take notice.’
Researcher Dr. Catherine White, director of St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester, said a fifth of women who had been raped by their partner said they had been choked.
Dr. White said the current law was ‘not fit for purpose’ and reform would create ‘more awareness and more prosecutions’.
Dame Vera is expected to meet with Miss Jacobs and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland on Thursday to discuss the proposals.
In a joint statement, Dama Vera and Miss Jacobs said non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation was an ‘utterly terrifying experience’.
Arguing that victims and survivors were being failed by the law, they added: ‘Non-fatal strangulation is significantly under-charged across the UK and there is no distinct offence.
‘The law is not fit for purpose. A specific offence with appropriate sanctions would make the dangers of non-fatal strangulation — and the appropriate action by law enforcement — crystal clear.’
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘Non-fatal strangulation is a serious crime which is already covered by existing laws such as common assault and attempted murder.’
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