‘Rough Sex’ no Longer Defence for Non-Fatal Strangulation

‘Rough Sex’ no Longer Defence for Non-Fatal Strangulation


Today, non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation (under The Justice Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims Act NI 2022) becomes a specific criminal offence in Northern Ireland, punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

Joanne Barnes, CEO of Nexus, a Charity which supports people impacted by sexual abuse and abusive relationships, said:

“We welcome this new offence coming into effect today, which recognises how serious this act of violence is and look forward to further offences such as up-skirting, down-blousing, cyber-flashing, and grooming by an adult pretending to be a child, coming into force by December. The introduction of new offences is important to deter perpetrators and to save lives, and statistics are clear for the need for this particular offence.”

  • Victims of abusive relationships are eight times more likely to be murdered by their partner if there had been non-fatal strangulation beforehand[i].
  • Strangulation is the 2nd most common method of murder for women in the UK[ii]
  • In 21/22, the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor recorded that 32% of cases accessing their IDVA services had experienced strangulation[iii].
  • 1 in 4 women accessing community and refuge-based services reported having experienced strangulation or suffocation.[iv]
  • Over 10% of people who experience domestic violence and sexual assault report that they were strangled with vast majority making no report at all.[v]
  • Over the last ten years, seven people were strangled to death[vi].

Joanne continued, “Previously difficult to prosecute, this is now a standalone offence that could see attackers face up to 14 years in prison.

“This is not a ‘fun’, sexual or ‘consensual’ act and ‘rough sex’ can no longer be used as a defence. Non-fatal can turn fatal in an instant and can take less pressure than shaking someone’s hand, it is a crime which could end someone’s life. If someone does survive it, they can experience serious health consequences such as a heart attack or stroke.

“The new non-fatal strangulation offence considers the trauma and fear that the victim experiences, the founding elements of how abusers attempt to control and intimidate victims.

“We have been assured that hundreds of PSNI officers and staff have undergone specialist training to support people through the justice system in a victim centred way when they report this crime and encourage people to do so.”

If you have been the victim of this crime, report online, via 101 or 999 in an emergency.


Notes to Editors

  • For more information or to bid for an interview with Joanne Barnes, please contact the Nexus Communications Team on 07738983590, 07566789933 or email:

Nexus is Northern Ireland’s leading charity supporting people impacted by sexual abuse and abusive relationships.

If you need advice or support, call the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline on 0808 802 1414, it is available 24/7 for any individual impacted by domestic or sexual abuse, either directly or indirectly. Webchat and email services are also available on and The DSA Helpline is hosted by Nexus on behalf of the Departments of Communities, Health and Justice.

[i] Police Service of Northern Ireland Non-Fatal Strangulation Toolkit

[ii] (ONS England and Wales, year ending March 2022).

[iii] (IDVA) dataset 2021-22

[iv] (Women’s Aid Federation England, 2022)

[v] Dr Sarah Hull, Clinical Director, The Rowan – ‘What happens if someone is strangled’ video –  PSNI Website

[vi] Police Service of Northern Ireland Non-Fatal Strangulation Toolkit

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