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News

WA's new Suffocation and Strangulation Laws FAQs

04/12/2020

What is suffocation and strangulation?

In June this year, State Parliament passed the Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 (the Act) which makes significant changes to the way the justice system will deal with family and domestic violence in Western Australia.

The Act introduced a new offence to the Criminal Code (WA) called 'suffocation and strangulation' (commonly referred to as 'non-fatal strangulation').

Suffocation and strangulation involves restricting another person’s breathing or blood circulating by blocking the mouth or nose or applying pressure to their neck, and can result in serious health outcomes for victims.

Why do we need a specific offence for this? Can’t it be dealt with under existing criminal laws?

While this type of conduct has historically been prosecuted under the State’s assault provisions, advances in our understanding of the impact suffocation and strangulation has on victims has highlighted the need for a stronger and more targeted justice response.

Suffocation and strangulation are intimate and callous forms of violence. In committing this act, a perpetrator conveys to the victim that they have the power to take their life away.

Suffocation and strangulation represent a distinct risk when committed in circumstances of family violence. Research shows that suffocation and strangulation committed against an intimate partner is one of the strongest indicators of an increased risk of homicide. Women who experience an episode of non-fatal strangulation by their intimate partner are over seven times more likely to be killed than other women.

The introduction of a specific suffocation and strangulation offence sends a strong message that this type of conduct is unacceptable and offenders will be prosecuted.

What if the victim has agreed to take part in this activity as part of a sexual act?

It is still illegal. Unlike other jurisdictions in Australia, the WA offence does not take into account whether or not the victim gave their consent. A person who restricts another person’s breathing or blood flow is committing an offence and can be prosecuted.

What are the penalties for suffocation and strangulation?

The offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and a fine of up to $36,000.

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