Choking, Strangling or Suffocation (NT)

In the Northern Territory, as in all Australian states and territories, there is now a standalone offence consisting of an assault involving the choking, strangling or suffocating of another person with whom the offender is in a domestic relationship. This is a common type of assault in a family violence setting and has been found to be a strong indicator of the likelihood of further violence, including lethal violence. This page deals with the offence of choking, strangling or suffocation in the NT.


The offence of choking, strangling or suffocating another person without consent in a domestic relationship is contained in section 186AA of the Criminal Code Act 1983. It carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. To be found guilty of this offence, the accused must have known or been reckless as to the fact that the victim did not consent to the conduct.

What is a domestic relationship?

A domestic relationship is defined in section 9 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 as including a person who is:

  • in a family relationship with the person
  • has or had the custody of the other person
  • is or had been subject to the custody or guardianship of the other person
  • lives with the other person or a family member of the other person
  • in a family relationship with a child of the person
  • is in an intimate personal relationship with the other person
  • is in an intimate personal relationship with a person who was in an intimate personal relationship with the person
  • is in a family relationship with a person who is in an intimate personal relationship with the person
  • is in an intimate personal relationship with a person who is in a family relationship with the person
  • is in a carer’s relationship with the person

What is choking, strangling or suffocating?

Choking, strangling or suffocating includes:

  • applying pressure to the person’s neck;
  • obstructing or interfering with any part of the person’s respiratory system or accessory system so respiration.


The offence is an indictable offence that is triable summarily. This means that the offence can be dealt with in the lower courts (Magistrates Court and Children’s Court) if the parties agree. It can also be committed to the Supreme Court for finalisation.

In the lower courts, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single offence is two years imprisonment.

Introduction of the offence

The offence set out in section 186AA was introduced in 2019 as part of the Justice Legislation Amendment (Domestic and Family Violence) Act, which sought to improve responses to family violence.

Studies have shown that victims of family violence who are subjected to this sort of assault are seven times more likely to become the victim of a fatal family violence assault.  Strangulation can lead to death within a very short time. It can also lead to death in the days or weeks following the assault as the result of blood clots, stroke or brain damage.

The particular risks associated with this type of violence, and its recognition as an indicator of escalating family violence, led to calls for it to be made a standalone offence in the NT and in other jurisdictions.

The standalone offence of choking, suffocation or strangulation carries the same maximum penalty as an aggravated assault under section 188 of the Criminal Code Act 1983.   

Other jurisdictions

Similar standalone offences consisting of the non-fatal strangulation or suffocation of a victim now exist in all states and territories. In New South Wales the offence applies to any instance of choking or strangulation, whereas in other states it is limited to offences that occur in a family violence context.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.    


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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