The Commission has been asked to report on a possible new crime of strangulation. This Report discharges that obligation.
The Commission has considered:
(a) the rationale for establishing such a crime;
(b) if a crime of non-fatal strangulation is to be created, what the appropriate elements of the offence should be;
(c) what the maximum penalty should be having regard to the structure and terms of other offences in the Crimes Act 1961; and
(d) whether there are other legislative or operational options that would better address the concerns the proposed crime is intended to address.
This reference forms part of a range of initiatives the Minister of Justice is considering in respect of family violence. The current government has made the scourge of family violence in New Zealand one of its highest priorities. The Police deal with over 100,000 family call-outs per year. Studies have shown that strangulation, often to the point of unconsciousness, is a common form of family violence. It is a dreadful tool for coercion and control within a domestic relationship. It is not well accommodated within the existing offences in the Crimes Act.
This particular form of attack, which is not limited to family violence, has been criminalised in a number of countries (for instance, almost three-quarters of American states). It has been better investigated in these jurisdictions, and is understood as being an important indicator of lethality risk. In the Commission’s view, it is appropriate and suitable for inclusion in our Crimes Act as a new offence. It meets the usual criteria for the establishment of a new crime.
The Commission has had the benefit of consultation with a broad range of people and agencies who operate particularly in the family violence sector and who represent both the victims and perpetrators of family violence, including the Police, members of the judiciary, women’s refuges, prosecuting and defence counsel and academics specialising in family violence. A list of these people and agencies can be found at Appendix B.
Sir Grant Hammond