UK to criminalise 'horrific' strangling attacks under domestic abuse bill

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 1 March 2021 17:44 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator wearing a pink wig holds a heart-shaped balloon during a "One Billion Rising" demonstration on Valentine's Day in London February 14, 2015. The "One Billion Rising" campaign is a globally coordinated campaign aimed at ending violence against women and girls. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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Campaigners say new law on "non-fatal strangulation" will help save lives

By Emma Batha

LONDON, March 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Men who throttle their partners will face up to five years in prison and anyone who threatens to send "revenge porn" could be locked up for two years, Britain said on Monday as it sought to boost protection for domestic abuse victims.

The announcements come amid mounting concern over a dramatic rise in domestic violence during Covid-19 lockdowns, which have left many women trapped at home with abusive partners.

Campaigners said the new offence of "non-fatal strangulation" would close a loophole that often lets abusers escape justice for choking attacks - which can cause brain damage, strokes and other serious injury.

Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said the law would save lives.

About 20,000 women suffer strangulation or attempted strangulation every year, according to campaigners.

"The new standalone offence will help protect them as well as many thousands of others from this horrific crime, which will undoubtedly prevent deaths," Jacobs said.

The Ministry of Justice said threatening to share intimate images without someone's consent would also be criminalised as it announced a slew of amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is due to become law shortly.

Although so-called "revenge porn" was outlawed in 2015, threatening to share explicit images was not included as an offence.

Calls to broaden the law have been backed by Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman, famous for playing Queen Elizabeth II on "The Crown", and "Love Island" reality TV star Zara McDermott, herself a victim of revenge porn.

Domestic abuse charity Refuge said threatening to share intimate images was a "devastating form of domestic abuse" that ruined lives.

One in seven young women - and one in 14 adults overall - has received such threats, according to research by Refuge.

The charity said most threats were made by current or former partners, often as a means to control or manipulate their victim.

The government will also criminalise controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation.

Women who leave their abusive partners say their exes often continue to intimidate and control them for years, sometimes through financial means.

"I am regularly contacted by survivors who are experiencing post-separation abuse and feel they have no place to go," Jacobs said.

"Now the law will truly recognise their experience and help to bring perpetrators to justice."

Finance minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a £19 million package to tackle domestic abuse in this week's budget.

The money will be spent on programmes working with perpetrators to prevent abuse happening in the first place, and on increasing bed spaces for homeless and vulnerable women.

"For many domestic abuse victims, the pandemic has worsened the nightmares they go through day-in day-out, with many left trapped and with nowhere to go," Sunak said in a statement.

Related stories:

In domestic abuse crackdown, UK law targets 'horrendous' strangling attacks

Sharing 'deepfake' porn images should be a crime, says British law body

UK 'Love Island' star calls for revenge porn threats to be made a crime

(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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