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Non-fatal strangulation. If you intentionally restrict someone’s breathing, this is a crime. Be prepared to face up to 14 years in prison.

Non-fatal strangulation has been made a specific, standalone criminal offence as part of the Justice (Sexual offences & trafficking victims) Act (NI) 2022 and could mean that attackers could face up to 14 years in prison.

What is non-fatal strangulation?

The practice typically involves a perpetrator strangling or intentionally affecting their victim’s ability to breathe in an attempt to control or intimidate them. Studies have shown that victims are eight times more likely to be murdered by their partner if there had been non-fatal strangulation beforehand.

What happens if someone is strangled?

It is common for strangulation to leave no visible signs of injury and consequences can be delayed by days or weeks. These include stroke, cardiac arrest, miscarriage, incontinence, seizures, memory loss and long-term brain injury.

Consciousness can be lost after as little as four seconds of arterial pressure. Blocking the jugular vein can take less pressure than opening a can of fizzy pop. Loss of consciousness indicates at the very least, a mild brain injury.

Below are some of the more common health complications as a result of non-fatal strangulation:

  • Problems breathing, difficulty breathing while lying down, shortness of breath, persistent cough or coughing up blood
  • Loss of consciousness or “passing out”
  • Changes in your voice or difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing, a lump in your throat, or muscle spasms in your throat or neck
  • Swelling to your throat, neck or tongue
  • Increasing neck pain
  • Left or right-sided weakness, numbness or tingling
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty walking
  • Headache not relieved by over the counter medication
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or changes to your vision
  • Pinpoint red or purple dots on your face or neck, or burst blood vessels in your eye
  • Behavioural changes, memory loss or confusion
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others

Has this not always been a criminal offence?

It has been a challenge to prosecute this offence under previous legislation, as investigating police officers had to prove intent to commit an indictable offence. For example, if someone had been strangled in what was believed to be a sexually motivated attack, the officer would have to prove that the perpetrator intended to commit sexual assault.

This new legislation means that non-fatal strangulation is now a standalone offence.

How do I report to police?

Any reports to police can still be done the same way by calling 101 in a non-emergency and 999 in an emergency. 

We understand it can be difficult. Our officers and staff have received specialist training and are here to listen and support you in any way we can. Importantly, your information could help us bring the offender to justice and make sure you are kept safe.

What happens if I report this to police?

Detectives in our Public Protection Branch are committed to investigating this crime, all reports are taken incredibly seriously. They have specifically trained detectives who will treat you with sensitivity and respect and support you throughout the entire criminal justice process.