Stranglers no longer to get soft touch

Law Commission president Sir Grant Hammond. The commission wants strangulation to be its own crime

Law Commission president Sir Grant Hammond. The commission wants strangulation to be its own crime

EDITORIAL: Want to know the worst thing about The Simpsons?

It's not that the show's no longer funny. Sometimes it still is.

It's the cheap running gag in which a furious Homer seizes his bratty son by the throat, delivers his famous line "Why you little . . ." and chokes him.

Bart's eyes bulge. He gags. Comically. But there's never any long-term harm done.

READ MORE: Commission wants strangulation to become a specific crime

Granted, cartoons aren't known for their gritty realism. But even by the tolerances of the genre it's a bad and persisting error of judgment to so routinely trivialise something quite so ugly.

Strangulation is traumatising. Terrifying.

The strangler puts his victim on the road to death and keeps them there until . . . well, until what?

Until his own red mist has cleared? Let's not assume he's quite so out-of-control.  It can be an angry but indulgent exercise in domination; re-establishing who's boss around here.

Fun fact: It's quite a common trait among those who end up murderers. 

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Family violence victims who have survived strangulation are seven times more likely to end up killed than those who suffered other forms of violence. 

Unhappily, the law has been problematic for authorities seeking to prosecute stranglers.

It hasn't been an offence in its own right, just something that might lead to a generic assault charge.

This could be a serious one like injuring with intent, which has a maximum five-year jail sentence, or injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, which carries a 10-year maximum.

But that tends not to happen. The strangler, even if he's gone to the brink of murder, doesn't tend to leave the tell-tale signs of physical damage. The upshot is that if there's any prosecution at all, it's for lesser offences, commonly male assaults female,  with just a two-year maximum.

Not good enough.

The Law Commission proposes strangulation become an offence in its own right, with a seven-year maximum, and Justice Minister Amy Adams is backing that, citing strong supportive evidence and a good fit with the Government's review of family violence laws.

Amen to that.  And roll on the commission's next report, which is on laws about victims of family violence who kill their abusers. That's a far more difficult area and one that's long been demanding closer scrutiny.



 - Stuff


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