By Ruth Peters, 28th April 2023
Recent case law has set out the proper approach to sentencing offences of intentional strangulation.
What is intentional strangulation?
Intentional strangulation is committed when any person intentionally strangulates another person, or does any other act to that person that effects the ability of that person to breathe and constitutes a battery of that person.
When did intentional strangulation become an offence?
Section 70 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduced the offence of non-strangulation by adding Section 75A to the Serious Crime Act 2015. It came into force for any offence committed on or after the 7th June 2022.
What is the maximum sentence?
The offence is triable ‘either way’. On indictment the maximum sentence is imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.
Is there any requirement to prove injury or harm?
There is no requirement to prove any injury or harm as a result of the strangulation so long as it is intentional.
Can the offence only be committed by a man?
Although the offence is gender neutral, intentional strangulation, as a matter of fact, is more often an act committed by a man against a woman rather than vice versa. The offence was introduced as part of the government’s Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy in 2021.
It should be noted that this offence does not have a specific sentencing guideline from the Sentencing Council.
In Cook  EWCA Crim 452 the Court of Appeal indicated that a custodial sentence will ordinarily be appropriate in such matters save for exceptional circumstances. They indicated that ordinarily the sentence would be one of immediate custody with a starting point of 18 months’ custody.
The Court of Appeal went on to consider a list of points that may increase the starting point.
The following factors are likely to do so;
- History of previous violence
- The significance of the history will be greater when the previous violence has involved strangulation
- Presence of a child/children
- Attack carried out in the victim’s home
- Sustained or repeated strangulation
- Use of a ligature or equivalent
- Abuse of power
- Offender under the influence of drink/drugs
- Offender on licence
- Vulnerable victim
- Steps taken to prevent the victim reporting an incident
- Steps taken to prevent the victim obtaining assistance
Statutory aggravating factors
Statutory aggravating factors are likely to also increase the starting point.
They are as follows;
- Previous convictions having regard to (a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and (b) the time that has relapsed since the conviction
- Offence committed whilst on bail
- Offence motivated by our demonstrating hostility based on any of the following characteristics are presumed characteristics of the victim, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The Court of Appeal also commented that the Sentencing Council overarching principles in relation to domestic abuse are likely to be relevant when sentencing in relation to intentional strangulation. Such guideline makes clear domestic abuse offences are to be regarded as particularly serious.
The aggravating factors at paragraph 11 of the overarching principles will apply in every case of domestic abuse. As set out at paragraph 13 of that guideline ‘provocation is no mitigation to an offence within a domestic context, except in rare circumstances’.
Mitigating factors could include;
- Good character
- Mental disorder
- Genuine recognition of the need for change and evidence of the offender having sort appropriate help and assistance
- Very short lived strangulation from which the offender voluntarily desisted
How can we help?
At Olliers, we are specialists when it comes to domestic cases. If you are facing an allegation of a domestic nature, Olliers have a specialist team who will be able to assist in achieving the best outcome. Contact us by telephone on 0161 834 1515, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form below.