Domestic abusers who leave no marks on victims face 7 years in jail under new law

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is hoping to close a loophole in the law (Image: REX/Shutterstock)

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Domestic abusers who throttle their victims but leave no mark are to face seven years in jail.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland hopes to plug a loophole that lets attackers off too lightly, thereby protecting 5,000 women a year.

He is acting after an alarming increase in domestic violence during lockdowns.

Mr Buckland will try to add a new offence of “non-fatal strangulation” to a police and sentencing Bill next month.

At present, domestic abusers get up to five years for actual bodily harm and 10 for GBH. But that requires prosecutors to prove an identifiable injury.

The move should provide more protection to domestic violence victims [file pic]
(Image: Getty)

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And offenders who grab victims by the throat often leave no obvious trace.

So police are left with a charge of common assault, which only carries a maximum of six months in jail.

After meeting domestic abuse campaigners last week, Mr Buckland told the Sunday Mirror: “I’ve heard too many terrible stories of women being throttled only to see abusers get a slap on the wrist.

"Prosecutors don’t have the tools to make sure these violent criminals spend long enough behind bars.”

It is hoped could protect 5,000 women a year [file pic]
(Image: Getty)

Mr Buckland wants to model the law on one introduced in New Zealand in 2018, which has resulted in 400 abusers being charged each year.

Domestic abuse campaigner Louise Perry, of We Can’t Consent to This, said: “A specific offence is urgently needed to address this problem. We’ve heard from many victims who felt that their assaults were not taken seriously.”

In the first lockdown one in five crimes involved domestic abuse – 259,324 cases between March and June.

Half of routinely abused women suffer non-fatal strangulation. Research shows the chances of subsequently being murdered by a partner rises eightfold.

It could have saved tragic sister

Relatives of murder victim Anne-Marie Nield believe a “non-fatal strangulation” law could have saved her.

Anne-Marie Nield [right] with her sister Catherine
(Image: Catherine MacIntosh)

Anne-Marie, 44, was killed at home in Rochdale, Lancs, by partner Richard Howarth, 45 – now serving life. She had earlier told police Howarth had put her in a headlock and squeezed her neck.

Sister Cathy McIntosh said: “No one properly identified the risk."

Civil liberties lawyer Sophie Naftalin, who represented Anne-Marie’s family at the inquest, added: “In every single one of my cases, there is almost always a strangulation which predates the murder.”

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