Clear picture of strangulation offenders emerges from first data analysis

Media release

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

More than 98% of strangulation cases finalised in Queensland courts involved male offenders, according to new analysis by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC).

In the first two years of the strangulation offence operating in Queensland, 287 people were sentenced, receiving an average sentence of 1.9 years imprisonment.

Almost half of the cases involved a breach of a domestic violence order.

The offence was introduced in Queensland on 5 May 2016, as a recommendation of the Not Now, Not Ever special taskforce report into Domestic and Family Violence.

It relates to choking, suffocating, or strangling another person with whom the offender is in a domestic relationship, without that person’s consent, and/or in the context of domestic violence. The offence carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ jail.

A QSAC Sentencing Spotlight analysis of courts data from 1 July 2016–30 June 2018 found that offenders were typically:

  • Male
  • Aged 20-29 years
  • Non-indigenous and
  • Sentenced on a plea of guilty

The 287 offenders committed a total of 482 strangulation offences over the two years analysed. More than 76% of offenders were jailed; the longest sentence imposed was four years.

The oldest offender was 60, the youngest 15.  Of the 287 people sentenced, five (1.7%) were women.

99% of offenders with strangulation as their most serious offence (MSO) pleaded guilty.

QSAC Chair, John Robertson, said the Sentencing Spotlight provided a clearer picture of the prevalence of the offence.

“What’s more, two decisions of the Court of Appeal in September and October 2018 indicate that higher sentences than previously imposed will be imposed for this new offence.

“The landmark Not Now, Not Ever report identified that strangulation, choking or suffocation was a key predictor of domestic homicide, and that report is specifically noted by the Court of Appeal as indicative of significant – and welcome - changes of community attitudes to this type of violent offending,” Mr Robertson said.

“This is a particularly abhorrent crime. When a person can look into their partner’s eyes and hurt them in this way, all the evidence shows a line has been crossed.

“Violence of this kind is a known predictor of escalating violence and increased risk to the offender’s domestic partner, and clearly police and prosecutors are taking this very seriously, pursuing this new offence through the courts,” Mr Robertson said.

The regional breakdown for 2016–2018 in Queensland is:

  • Far North Queensland – 21 cases
  • North Queensland – 29 cases
  • Central Queensland – 40 cases
  • Darling Downs/South-West – 25 cases
  • North Coast – 40 cases
  • Metropolitan – 92 cases
  • South-East – 40 cases

Read the full Sentencing Spotlight on choking, suffocation or strangulation in a domestic setting. The regular court data series is part of the Council’s role to inform, engage and advise on sentencing matters.

May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.

Media contact

Kirsten MacGregor
Phone: 0459 887 077