Chapter 8
Recommendations for reform

8.1Following the analysis outlined in the previous chapters, we have reached a number of conclusions about the nature of strangulation and the way it is currently prosecuted. Strangulation is a common form of family violence and it is always a serious violent offence even when there is no visible injury and the victim does not lose consciousness. While it can cause physical injury to victims, the main harm in family violence circumstances is the terror it inflicts and so the intimidation, coercion and control of the victim by the perpetrator that results.

8.2It is clear that strangulation in family violence circumstances is related to a higher risk of a future fatal attack by the perpetrator on the victim. We have found that this risk is not well understood by many Police officers, judges, doctors and others who deal with the victims of family violence. This means that the risk may not be taken into account in crucial ways, such as when judges are making bail decisions and protection orders or when Police and prosecutors are deciding whether to support or oppose those applications. In some cases, this will mean that the abuser is not kept away from the victim, who remains at significant risk.

8.3We have also found there are difficulties with prosecuting strangulation at an appropriately serious level under the current framework of serious violent offences in the Crimes Act when there are no visible injuries resulting. This is because the serious offences require proof of an injury or special intention on the part of the perpetrator, both of which are difficult to prove or do not exist in cases of strangulation. It seems likely this is one of the main reasons why strangulation in family violence circumstances tends to be charged as the lower-level offence of “male assaults female” instead of a more serious offence.

8.4We consider that under-recognition that strangulation signals a risk of future fatal attack, together with the legal impediments to holding perpetrators appropriately accountable, justify reform. The objectives for reform should be to: