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Domestic violence peak body ‘shocked’ by volume of strangulation charges laid under new law in WA

ABC Kimberley / By Hannah Barry

More than 70 people have been charged under Western Australia’s new anti-strangulation laws in the first month and a half.

The family violence legislation came into effect on October 1, and made it a specific offence to suffocate or strangle another person.

In a statement, WA police said 77 people had been charged with the offence as of late November, including at least four people in the Kimberley.

‘Absolutely shocking’

The Western Australian Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services is the peak body representing women’s refuges across the state, and advocated for specific, standalone laws against non-fatal strangulation.

Policy officer Kedy Kristal said it was troubling to hear the number of alleged perpetrators who had been charged in just over a month, but it was reassuring the legislation was being used.

“The Women’s Council did a whole year’s worth of research … in which we asked women coming into refuge for the first time had they ever experienced their partner putting anything around their neck — their hands, a belt, an elbow, an arm across their neck,” she said.

“The number of women who said they had was 530.

“Not only were the women’s refuge managers and staff incredibly shocked by the number of women who said they were experiencing non-fatal strangulation and quite often on a regular basis — us, as a peak body were incredibly shocked as well.”

WA Police said it would not provide statistics around the charges past November 23, but Ms Kristal said she expected Western Australia would record similar rates to Queensland in the future.

“We know when Queensland introduced their legislation … the numbers were extraordinarily high, and it seems the numbers here are going to be high as well,” she said.

“This is something that’s actually happening a lot, but nobody’s had it on their radar.”

Four charged in the Kimberley

In the Kimberley, four men have already appeared in Broome Magistrates Court and the Dampier Peninsula circuit court charged with the offence.

In two cases, the charges were relating to the domestic partners of the men, meaning it was upgraded due to aggravating circumstances.

Ms Kristal said it was pleasing police in regional WA had taken to using the legislation, but she hoped community education and health care would follow.

“It’s really pleasing to see that the police are using this legislation but I think there’s also a huge need for us to be educating the community in the metro, regional, remote and rural areas of Western Australia to understand the health impacts as well,” she said.

“It’s not only about charging perpetrators, but it’s actually about making sure the victims have had a proper health assessment and if there’s ongoing concerns that someone’s monitoring those.”

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