Police in Northern Ireland can now charge people with non-fatal strangulation.
It became a stand-alone offence in Northern Ireland under the Justice, Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims Act 2022, and has now come into effect.
Strangulation is the second most common method of female murder in the UK.
Women’s Aid NI said the legal change would give prosecutors vital tools to deal with perpetrators.
Non-fatal strangulation is seen as a red flag for escalating violence in intimate partner relationships and a possible indicator for future risk of murder or attempted murder.
The Department of Justice said the new offence provided greater protection for victims: “This crime can affect anyone and can occur in a number of circumstances.
“However, there are those who use strangulation and asphyxiation to exert control and fear in others, including in cases of domestic abuse.
“Research shows that this type of abuse is eight times more likely to result in domestic homicide.
“In recognition of the serious harm it causes, this new offence carries greater penalties than were previously available and today marks another step forward in making our community safer.”
The PSNI said the new legislation “means that if you do anything that does or could restrict someone’s breathing in any way you should be prepared to face a prison sentence for this offence alone”.
“This new legislation will take into consideration the emotional impact, trauma and fear that the victim experiences.”
Senior police described the legislation as a “step forward in helping officers tackle the magnitude of the threat”.
Det Supt Lindsay Fisher said: “On average, between 10-12% of reporting domestic abuse victims have experienced non-fatal strangulation, placing them at the highest risk.
“Non-fatal strangulation, can very quickly turn fatal.”