By: Brinley Duggan

In that same period of time every Australian state or territory other than Tasmania has moved to criminalise a law regarding “non-fatal strangulation” as a stand alone offence.

Despite Tasmanian coroner Olivia McTaggart recommending in 2019 that “the Tasmanian government give consideration to the enactment of an indictable offence of choking, suffocation or strangulation applicable to both the domestic violence situation and generally”.

Currently queries over how best to approach stronger convictions for non-fatal strangulation in Tasmania is before the sentencing advisory council, but the Tasmanian state government has not committed to making it a stand alone offence.

In Legislative Council question time on Tuesday Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest asked the state government whether the SAC would be able to recommend for non-fatal strangulation to be made a stand alone offence.

“Under the SAC’s area of expertise and responsibilities … How is this body appropriate to fully consider all options regarding non-fatal strangulation as a stand-alone offence?” she asked.

Leader for the government Leonie Hiscutt said a stand alone offence was not a certainty from the SAC’s investigation.

“I have not asked the Council to specifically recommend whether a possible new standalone criminal law offence should be introduced in Tasmania on this matter,” she said.

Ms McTaggart made the recommendations after reviewing the murder of Tasmanian woman Jodi Eaton in 2014.

Ms Eaton was murdered by a man she knew.

Her murderer was Darren Michael Dobson. Dobson had an extensive history of family violence before he killed Ms Eaton.

But it was his sickening choice of violence that caused the death of Ms Eaton.

Dobson strangled his victims. Prior to Ms Eaton’s murder he had at least five recorded instances of choking women he knew.

The first three times Dobson strangled the woman he knew he also perpetrated other forms of violence – assault on one occasion, and rape on another. For these crimes he was sentenced to 10 years prison.

After he left prison he choked another woman. Despite his history of violence, he was sentenced to a two month suspended sentence with a requisite of good behaviour.

During that good behaviour period he again choked another woman. A week later he strangled Ms Eaton and killed her.

In her recommendations, and referring to an American study, Ms McTaggart said, “given that all incidents of strangulation could potentially result in death, it would appear logical that strangulation be prosecuted as a more serious crime than simple assault”.

Such is the regularity of non-fatal strangulation that in Queensland, the first state to enact the offence, there were 482 charges laid in relation to strangulation from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

New South Wales has had the offence in place since December 2018. In the space of one year there had been 899 charges laid under the law.

In South Australia, which brought the law in at the start of 2019, there were 291 charges in the first six months of it becoming an offence.

Western Australia enacted the offence in October this year and within a month and a half had already laid 77 charges relating to non-fatal strangulation.

Victoria began the process of enacting a stand alone offence after coronial findings in July 2018. A year later the state’s police commissioner had promised the law.

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