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Felony strangulation and other provisions

Felony strangulation and other provisions

Legislation should provide serious penalties for strangulation.  Many domestic violence victims have experienced some form of attempted strangulation, which has often been discounted as “choking.” This form of abuse can have serious physical and psychological consequences, and is often a precursor to deadly violence.

Also, legislation should provide serious penalties for stove burnings, other burnings and acid assaults. Drafters should ensure that offenses using dangerous weapons, fire, acid or oil to inflict injury or death are a specific and serious crime. For example, Article 324 of the Bangladesh Penal Code punishes voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means: “Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison of any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

Example:  A provision of Minnesota, USA, law (Minn. Stat §609.2247) which makes strangulation of a family or household member a specific and serious crime. 

See: The Impact of the Minnesota Felony Strangulation Law. This report examines the impact the law has had on victim safety, defendant accountability, and public awareness. 

(See: Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, “Facts About Intimate Partner Strangulation” (2009); and Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, “Information about Murder-Suicide” (2009))

Fatality Reviews

 Legislation should require domestic and dowry-related violence fatality reviews. These are reviews, conducted by police, advocates and other community responders, which examine community systems to assess whether such homicides could have been prevented had various institutions responded differently. Such fatality reviews should also track and evaluate the impact of dowry regulation or registration systems on dowry-related deaths. (See: Domestic Fatality Review Board, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights. For example, see: Hennepin County Domestic Fatality Review Team,  A Matter of Life and Death: 2007 Findings of the Domestic Fatality Review Team, 2007)

Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure requires a police officer to investigate any suicides or suspicious or accidental deaths and file a report. The police has discretion, when cause of death is doubtful, to forward the body to a civil surgeon for examination (Article 174). A judge also has the authority to disinter a corpse, where it would be necessary to discover the cause of death (Article 176).

See: Chapter 4 of The Toolkit to end Violence against Women, p. 15.

Examples: the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004) of United Kingdom (hereinafter law of United Kingdom) provides for “domestic homicide reviews” which review the death of persons age 16 or over when the death appears to have resulted from violence, abuse, or neglect by a family member, intimate partner, or member of the same household. The review is to be “held with a view to identifying the lessons to be learnt from the death.” 9

In Ireland, the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) is conducting a review of the female domestic violence homicides from the past 10 years, “with a view to determining the nature and quality of interventions with the victim and or perpetrator, and whether opportunities for effective intervention were maximised. The research will also examine the requisite steps for the introduction of a domestic violence homicide review mechanism in Ireland.” (See: Researching the Antecedents to Female Domestic Homicides)

Conditions of Release

Legislation should provide specific direction to law enforcement officials about the conditions of release for violent offenders who have been arrested for violating an order for protection or for an act of domestic violence. See: the Code of Criminal Process (2007) of Portugal, which reinforces the prohibition on the offender to contact certain offenders in any way.

Police and judicial officials must make determinations about victim safety, including the threat that the violent offender presents to the complainant/survivor, her family, and her associates, and must place conditions upon the release of the offender that reflect these concerns. (See the section on Lethality and risk assessments, above)

(See: Family Violence: A Model State Code, Sec 208)

Example: Some US states require that certain violent offenders who may be likely to re-offend wear a satellite tracking device so that if they enter certain prohibited zones, such as the areas surrounding the survivor’s home, workplace, or daycare, an alarm is triggered to warn police and the survivor. Advocates report that when an offender knows that they are being monitored and the consequences are swift, homicides related to domestic abuse drop. GPS devices cost about $25 USD per day per offender, compared to $75 USD to keep an offender in jail

For example, the Act Further Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence (2006) of Massachusetts, USA (hereinafter the law of Massachusetts) states:

“Where a defendant has been found in violation of an abuse prevention order under this chapter or a protection order issued by another jurisdiction, the court may, in addition to the penalties provided for in this section after conviction, as an alternative to incarceration and, as a condition of probation, prohibit contact with the victim through the establishment of court defined geographic exclusion zones including, but not limited to, the areas in and around the complainant’s residence, place of employment, and the complainant’s child’s school, and order that the defendant to wear a global positioning satellite tracking device designed to transmit and record the defendant’s location data.  If the defendant enters a court defined exclusion zone, the defendant’s location data shall be immediately transmitted to the complainant, and to the police, through an appropriate means including, but not limited to, the telephone, an electronic beeper or a paging device.  The global positioning satellite device and its tracking shall be administered by the department of probation.  If a court finds that the defendant has entered a geographic exclusion zone, it shall revoke his probation and the defendant shall be fined, imprisoned or both as provided in this section.  Based on the defendant’s ability to pay, the court may also order him to pay the monthly costs or portion thereof for monitoring through the global positioning satellite tracking system.” Ch. 418, Sect. 7

(See:  Illinois, USA, Code of Criminal Procedure, Sec. 110-5)

The Criminal Code of Portugal (2007) also provides for technical monitoring of offenders.