Renee Pilcher

Harsher penalties for domestic violence offenders

FAMILY abuse thugs who strangle their victims now face seven years behind bars.

The Queensland Government on Tuesday evening passed a bill adding non-fatal strangulation as a stand-alone offence to the state's criminal code.

The law applies to any form of choking, strangling and/or suffocating acts. Perpetrators could be jailed for a maximum of seven years.

Domestic violence expert Professor Heather Douglas said making strangulation a crime in its own right was important recognition of the impacts of these assaults.

"Strangulation is such a serious action," the University of Queensland TIC Beirne School of Law academic said.

"It leads to all sorts of harms including long-term illness that might not be captured (by doctors or police) within a couple of days of the offence.

"The other thing that's been shown by researchers is that when strangulation occurs in a domestic and family violence context, the risk of death or serious harm is very clear.

"It's a very good red flag for future risk of serious harm."

Tuesday's parliamentary sitting also saw the unimpeded passage of amendments to the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, allowing judges to consider domestic violence as an aggravating factor when sentencing perpetrators.

"This will require judicial officers to consider the context in which domestic violence offences occur, and in doing so, consider imposing a higher sentence that is within the usual range but not above the maximum penalty," Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said.

Ms D'Ath said the changes also re-instated the ability of judges to receive submissions from prosecutors and defence lawyers on the available range of appropriate sentences.

"This will return proceedings to the situation that existed prior to the 2014 High Court decision in Barbaro &

Zirilli v The Queen and will improve consistency in sentencing, as well as assist in the efficient running of courtrooms," Ms D'Ath said.

The strangulation bill was among 121 recommendations the government took responsibility for of the 140 put forward in 2015's ground-breaking Special Taskforce on Domestic Violence's Not Now, Not Ever report.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Shannon Fentiman said the State Government was working towards rolling out all of those recommendations.

"These important legislative changes will support the safety and security of victims of domestic and family violence while we embark on a broader education and awareness campaign to drive real change on the terrible burden of domestic violence in our community," Ms Fentiman said.

*For 24-hour support in Queensland phone DVConnect on 1800 811 811, Mensline on 1800 600 636 or the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. - ARM NEWSDESK

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