First Forced Marriage Conviction

First Forced Marriage Conviction

By Jo Morris and Libby Anderson

Forced marriage was criminalised in 2014. Whether this has been a success is open to debate. Despite there being between 5,000 and 8,000 forced marriages in the UK every year, there have been remarkably few criminal convictions. This week has seen the first ever conviction for the lesser offence of deceiving a person with intent to cause them to leave the UK in order to be subject to a forced marriage. A jury at Birmingham Crown Court found a mother had tricked her daughter into leaving the UK by telling her that the purpose was a family holiday. One of the difficulties faced by investigators is that children are slow to criminalise their parents, tending to prefer such disputes to be resolved in private.

Before the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the only remedy for victims was to seek a Civil Protection Order from the family courts. This was a shield rather than a sword. While victims were protected, it allowed those guilty of arranging forced marriages to escape penal consequences. To address this, Parliament passed S121 of the ASBCPA. However, it did create the problem of dividing the loyalties of victims by forcing them to give evidence against relatives.

Shortly stated, nobody is keen to give evidence against a loved one. The case of Bedfordshire Police Constabulary v RUFHS [2013] EWHC 2350 is an instance in point. The victim had given evidence that she would be shot if she did not travel to Pakistan to be married and was provided with a FMPO which prevented her marriage at all. She was married under the supervision of her mother and aunt which rendered them in breach of the FMPO. As a result of her emotional attachment to her mother and aunt when they were arrested, the victim withdrew her original statement and said that was not forced into the marriage.

This begs the question of whether the subsequent criminal consequences would prevent victims seeking civil remedies. It also evinces the difficulties faced by Crown when a prosecution of this nature is brought. Emotional attachment from the witness box to the dock bedevils all forms of crime between family members. We do have the options of summonsing witnesses, offering special measures, and relying upon the hearsay provisions but it is impossible to say how much crime of this kind is unreported.

Forced marriage was criminalised in 2014. Whether this has been a success is open to debate. Despite there being between 5,000 and 8,000 forced marriages in the UK every year, there have been remarkably few criminal convictions. This week has seen the first ever conviction for the lesser offence of deceiving a person with intent to cause them to leave the UK in order to be subject to a forced marriage. A jury at Birmingham Crown Court found a mother had tricked her daughter into leaving the UK by telling her that the purpose was a family holiday. One of the difficulties faced by investigators is that children are slow to criminalise their parents, tending to prefer such disputes to be resolved in private.

Before the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the only remedy for victims was to seek a Civil Protection Order from the family courts. This was a shield rather than a sword. While victims were protected, it allowed those guilty of arranging forced marriages to escape penal consequences. To address this, Parliament passed S121 of the ASBCPA. However, it did create the problem of dividing the loyalties of victims by forcing them to give evidence against relatives.

Shortly stated, nobody is keen to give evidence against a loved one. The case of Bedfordshire Police Constabulary v RUFHS [2013] EWHC 2350 is an instance in point. The victim had given evidence that she would be shot if she did not travel to Pakistan to be married and was provided with a FMPO which prevented her marriage at all. She was married under the supervision of her mother and aunt which rendered them in breach of the FMPO. As a result of her emotional attachment to her mother and aunt when they were arrested, the victim withdrew her original statement and said that was not forced into the marriage.

This begs the question of whether the subsequent criminal consequences would prevent victims seeking civil remedies. It also evinces the difficulties faced by Crown when a prosecution of this nature is brought. Emotional attachment from the witness box to the dock bedevils all forms of crime between family members. We do have the options of summonsing witnesses, offering special measures, and relying upon the hearsay provisions but it is impossible to say how much crime of this kind is unreported.