VKPP Year 3 Report – IFAS Response


What is the VKPP?


The Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP) deliver projects to ‘develop the evidence base for vulnerability and related serious crime across police forces in England and Wales, driving practice improvement’ (VKPP: https://vkpp.org.uk/). They achieve this by reporting on all ‘police-recorded domestic homicides, unexpected deaths and suspected suicides of individuals with a history of domestic abuse victimisation’. Deaths are categorised into six distinct groups for analysis which include: adult family homicide (AFH), child deaths, intimate partner homicide (IPH), other, suspected victim suicide following domestic abuse (SVSDA), and unexpected deaths.

This data has been collected and reported on since April 2020 and in March 2024, the VKPP published the third annual report from their analysis of domestic homicides and domestic abuse related suicides. This analysis includes findings specifically related to the presence of non-fatal strangulation, and strangulation as a method of killing. With this in mind, presented below is a short overview of general findings from three years of data* analysed by the programme in addition to an overview of the findings related specifically to strangulation. This important research builds on our understanding of strangulation within the context of domestic abuse highlighting the serious risk to life that it poses. We recommend reading the full VKPP report for further information and recommendations.

*Year 1 = April 2020 – March 2021, Year 2 = April 2021 – March 2022, Year 3 = April 2022 – March 2023



What were the findings from the Year 3 VKPP Report? 


From April 2020 – March 2023, there were 723 deaths recorded. These included:

intimate partner homicides (n=248)

adult family homicides (n=121)

suspected victim suicides following domestic abuse (SVSDA) (n=216)

unexpected deaths (n=74)

child deaths (n=46)

‘other’ deaths (n=18)


The majority of victims were female (71%, n = 514/723), and 67% (n = 483/723) cases involved a female victim and male suspect (although there was some variation by type of homicide i.e. intimate partner homicide compared to familial homicide).


Suspected domestic abuse related suicides (SVSDA) cases accounted for 38% (n = 93/233) of total cases from Year 3, compared to 28% (n = 72/250) of Year 2 cases. The authors reflected that this could, however, in part be linked in part to greater awareness and identification of these cases.


The number of victims and perpetrators of ethnic minority heritage remain slightly over-represented compared with the general population.


A history of controlling and coercive behaviour (CCB) was identified as a prominent risk factor, particularly in SVSDA cases.


Overall, 61% (n = 457/754) of all suspects were known to the police in relation to domestic abuse prior to the victim’s death. In Year 3, 83% (n = 85/102) of suspects in SVSDA cases were known to the police (‘suspect’ refers to the perpetrator of the prior domestic abuse). Over a third of perpetrators were known to other agencies, the VKPP report acknowledged that this demonstrates the need for a multi-agency approach to effectively safeguard victims.


The data also indicates that intimate partner homicide suspects and prior domestic abuse perpetrators in SVSDA are more likely to be referred to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) compared to adult family homicide suspects.


What did we learn about strangulation? 


Strangulation was the most common method of death across the whole dataset (2020-2023). This includes SVSDA deaths by hanging (the most common method of suicide across the three years of data). The most common method of death when considering domestic homicides only was by use of sharp instrument.


Across the whole dataset, the deaths by strangulation by typology were as shown below:

The vast majority 72% (n = 130/181) of deaths by strangulation were in SVSDA/suicide.

20% (n = 37/181) of the deaths by strangulation were intimate partner homicide cases.

Strangulation, as a method of killing, represented just under 15% (n= 37/248) of intimate partner homicides across the three years.


There were 19 deaths by suffocation across all categories of deaths/homicides in the three years.


In SVSDA cases there was an 11% increase in cases where the suspect had previously non-fatally strangled the victim in Year 3 (20%, n = 20/102) compared to Year 2 (9%, n = 7/76). This increase may have been partially a result of increased awareness from the introduction of legislation in June 2022.

Controlling and coercive behaviour (CCB) was noted as a risk factor in just under half of the SVSDA (47%, n = 48/102).

In just under a third of SVSDA cases where CCB was a risk factor it was found to co-occur with non-fatal strangulation (27%, n = 13/48)


This is recognised in Recommendation 6 of the report: “Police forces and partner agencies should recognise that the prevalence of coercive controlling behaviour, non-fatal strangulation and separation is even higher in suspected victim suicides following domestic abuse than in intimate partner homicides.”.


Across the three years of data, just over 10% of suspects had non-fatal strangulation recorded as a risk factor in their histories.


What did we take away from this research?


IFAS strongly agrees with the VKPP’s 9 recommendations in relation to raising awareness on domestic abuse and related suicide, the importance of monitoring and understanding data in relation to domestic abuse and risk factors such as non-fatal strangulation, the vital importance of assessing risk from suspects/perpetrators, information sharing between agencies and the sharing of best practice where forces have achieved posthumous prosecutions.


As an Institute, we are committed to building an accurate evidence base with regards to data that can support our understanding of and response to strangulation. We support the development of programmes and practice aimed at better understanding the risks associated with non-fatal strangulation in the context of domestic homicide and domestic abuse related suicide. Findings from our recently published Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHR) Series link closely with the VKPP Recommendation 2, to the police:  ‘Police forces should ensure they have a governance structure to analyse local cases of domestic homicide, both collectively and by typology. Subsequently, all domestic homicides and cases of suspected victim suicide with a causal link to domestic abuse should be included in any ‘problem profiles’ which could extend to all front-line services, in ensuring they are consistently and accurately collecting victim and suspect data in order to analyse local homicide cases and consider any potential trends and victim and suspect profile.


What this analysis also highlights is that strangulation can increase the risk of not only intimate partner homicide, but domestic abuse related suicides. From research and survivors’ involvement at IFAS, the long-lasting impact that strangulation can have on an individual is evident. Survivors who have contributed to the work of IFAS have highlighted the serious need for support, including psychological intervention, to be able to manage and cope after experiencing something as terrifying as strangulation. The findings from the VKPP research on suicides following domestic abuse amplifies this need in the most serious way.


If you are a survivor or work with those who has experienced strangulation, please see our information leaflet for victims for more information on how to access support.


To see more from IFAS in relation to how we are developing understanding and responses to strangulation in the UK, please visit our resources library.

Published 3.04.24
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