Non-fatally strangling or suffocating someone is to become illegal under new bill - carrying up to 5 years in prison

The bill includes a number of amendments to help protect victims of domestic abuse (Photo: Shutterstock)

Abusers who strangle their partners may face up to five years in prison under an amendment to the Domestic Violence Bill.

Previously, non-fatal strangulation was often charged as a common assault, a crime which only carries up to six months of prison time.

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Campaigners have long demanded non-fatal strangulation be made a specific offence in law, saying that abusers use strangulation as a way to control their partners.

Previously, the Government had said there were no plans to change the law because non-fatal strangulation was already covered by attempted murder and common assault.

Because non-fatal strangulation can leave no marks on the victim, abusers often get away with lenient sentences, say campaigners.

The Government has now agreed to introduce non-fatal strangulation as an amendment to the Domestic Violence Bill, with peers in the House of Lords having argued for the change.

The bill largely applies only to England and Wales, and will make it a crime to intentionally strangle someone, suffocate someone, or commit any act that affects their ability to breathe.

Other changes to domestic violence laws

Some other amendments to the bill include new legislation around so-called 'revenge porn', making it an offence to share intimate images with the intent to cause distress.

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge, which has been campaigning for change around revenge porn law, said: "This is a significant moment for women experiencing domestic abuse who have been threatened with the sharing of their private intimate images and we are thrilled that the government has recognised the need for urgent change.

"Our research found that 1 in 7 young women have experienced these threats to share, with the overwhelming majority experiencing them from a current or former partner, alongside other forms of abuse".

Amendments will also address controlling and coercive behaviour by removing requirements for abusers and victims to live together.

The domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, told the BBC the rafter of changes were a "huge win".

"I am delighted that the government has listened and acted," she said.

"Nevertheless, the government must still go further to make this bill genuinely 'landmark', by increasing the provision of services in the community and ensuring protections are extended to all victims and survivors, regardless of their immigration status."