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Non-fatal Strangulation

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Non-fatal strangulation and suffocation are serious criminal offences which can lead to lengthy terms of imprisonment for anyone found guilty. They were introduced as new offences in 2022 by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 in order to cover gaps in pre-existing legislation.

Here, we discuss what non-fatal strangulation and suffocation involve, what sentence those convicted of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation could receive, and why legal representation is essential if you are accused of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation.

While we hope this information is useful, please note that it should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal support with allegations of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What is non-fatal strangulation?

Non-fatal strangulation is an offence contrary to section 75A(1)(a) of the Serious Crime Act 2015. The act of non-fatal strangulation involves the intentional strangling of another person to restrict or stop their breathing which does not result in death.

The offence is extremely simple. The offence of non-fatal strangulation is committed where:

  1. A intentionally strangles B

‘Strangulation’ is not defined in the Serious Crime Act 2015, so the word is to be given its ordinary meaning: the obstruction or compression of blood vessels and/or airways by external pressure to the neck, impeding normal breathing or the circulation of blood.

Importantly, there does not need to be any physical harm caused by the strangulation for the offence to be made out. Indeed, it was introduced for this very purpose. As strangulation often does not result in bruising or visible harm, it previously only constituted a battery rather than more serious forms of assault such as ABH and GBH. It was felt that the offence of battery was not sufficient to reflect the seriousness of strangulation, and thus this new offence was introduced to remedy that issue.

Nonetheless, where physical harm is caused by the strangulation, ABH or GBH may be charged alongside this offence.

Although some dictionary definitions associate the term ‘strangle’ with an intention to kill, this is not necessary for the offence to be committed. Similarly, where there is an intention to kill, other offences such as attempted murder may be charged alongside this offence.

Common methods of non-fatal strangulation include, but are not limited to:

  • Manual – one or two hands held around the neck of a person
  • Chokehold or headlock – external pressure applied by an arm around the neck
  • Ligature – for example, a scarf or belt tightened around the neck
  • Hanging
  • Pressure on the neck from a foot or knee

What is non-fatal suffocation?

Non-fatal suffocation is a similar offence which was introduced at the same time as non-fatal strangulation, but which is contained in section 75A(1)(b) of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

The offence of non-fatal suffocation is committed where:

  1. A does any act to B;
  2. that act affects that B’s ability to breathe; and
  3. that act constitutes a battery of B.

Non-fatal suffocation has a wider definition than non-fatal strangulation. Again, the legislation does not provide a definition for ‘suffocation’, so the word is to be given its ordinary meaning: depriving someone of air which affects their normal breathing.

Methods of non-fatal suffocation could include:

  • Putting a hand over the mouth and nose
  • Compressing the chest
  • Any other force or suppression applied to a person to cause a restriction of breath

To complete the offence of non-fatal suffocation, prosecutors must also prove that an offence of battery has occurred. This means that there must have been an unlawful application of force.

What is the sentence for non-fatal strangulation and suffocation?

The offences of non-fatal strangulation and suffocation are triable either way. This means that these cases can be heard in either the Magistrates’ or the Crown Court.

A person who is convicted of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation in the Magistrates’ Court could face up to 6 months’ imprisonment. However, for those who are convicted in the Crown Court, the maximum sentence for non-fatal strangulation or suffocation is 5 years’ imprisonment.

Can you get a suspended sentence for non-fatal strangulation or suffocation?

Yes, you could potentially receive a suspended sentence if you are convicted of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation. Whether or not this will be possible will depend on the circumstances of the case.

You can find out more about suspended prison sentences here.

Is there a defence to non-fatal strangulation and suffocation?

Alongside standard defences such as self-defence and duress, section 75A(2) of the Serious Crime Act 2015 provides a specific statutory defence to non-fatal strangulation and suffocation. To rely on this defence, it must be shown that the Complainant consented to the strangulation or suffocation.

However, this consent defence will not be available if the Complainant suffered serious harm as a result of the strangulation or suffocation, and the Defendant intended to cause serious harm or was reckless as to whether the Complainant would suffer serious harm. This will typically apply where the strangulation or suffocation has caused ABH or GBH to the Complainant.

Are you being accused of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation?

Facing an accusation of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation can be a daunting prospect, particularly as it could lead to imprisonment. To ensure that you have the strongest possible defence against allegations of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation, it is essential that you instruct solicitors who have specialist expertise in handling offences of this nature.

At J D Spicer Zeb, our criminal defence solicitors provide robust representation and close personal support to ensure that you are able to achieve the best possible outcome for your case, which may include having charges dropped, or securing a lower sentence if conviction is unavoidable.

We are highly skilled at collecting and presenting the various types of evidence that are relied on in criminal defence cases, including forensic and digital evidence and witness testimony. This means we can also clearly identify any flaws in the case against you and make sure that evidence which supports your case is clearly presented.

We have over 45 years of experience in dealing with criminal law matters and have also been accredited by the Law Society for Criminal Litigation. Our experience has meant that we can demonstrate a strong track record of previous success and has helped us to build strong relationships with many of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

If you are facing a non-fatal strangulation or suffocation charge, we are here to provide you with the support you need.

Related matters:

We also provide support and guidance on various matters that are related to non-fatal strangulation including:

Our related cases

Fees and funding

When you come to us for support, we will always make sure to be clear and upfront about the fees that will be related to your case.

If you need to attend court in relation to a non-fatal strangulation charge, legal aid public funding may become available. Whether or not this is the case will depend on whether the grant of public funding is justified.

Where you do not qualify for legal aid public funding, the alternative will be to fund the case on a private basis.

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both legal aid public funding and private fees) for non-fatal strangulation charges, please use the links provided below:

Contact our criminal defence lawyers today

If you are due to attend the police station, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation for non-fatal strangulation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

24/7 legal representation for non-fatal strangulation and suffocation

Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for non-fatal strangulation.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

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Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

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"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
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  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

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