The Force’s focus on this issue coincides with the third annual national day of remembrance for victims of “honour” killings today, Friday 14 July. The 14 July was the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, originally from Bradford, who was killed by her parents in Warrington after suffering honour-based violence and an attempted forced marriage.
From June 2014 it became a crime to force someone to marry against their will. This is very different to arranged marriage which is a cultural practice, which is not unlawful, and involves the consent of both spouses. Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
The police can also apply for Forced Marriage Protection Orders to safeguard victims or potential victims and to put legally binding conditions on those involved in trying to force another person to marry. Anyone breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order faces up to five years in prison.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson of West Yorkshire Police said; “Tackling forced marriage and honour based abuse is a priority for West Yorkshire Police. There are specialist safeguarding units in every District of West Yorkshire with professionals who understand the issues and know how to help.
“There is no honour in any form of abuse. We take a victim-led approach to deal with these challenging issues which respects the views of victims and witnesses, provides the necessary support, confidentiality and protection from harm.
“In these types of cases, the views of the victim are taken seriously as to whether to prosecute and can ultimately be a deciding factor. We often see that victims do not want to prosecute their family, but our aim is to make sure the victim has the necessary support and above all, is safe.”
On Friday, July 14, Leeds District Police Commander Paul Money and Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson are signing a pledge at the Day of Memory Conference in Leeds hosted by national charity Karma Nirvana. Agencies from across the City including Leeds City Council and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust will be affirming their commitment to the people of Leeds and leading the way to nationally to become a beacon of best practice.
Leeds District Commander, Chief Superintendent Paul Money said; “Hosting the national day of remembrance event in Leeds allows us to really throw the spot light on this issue, and remind everyone, locally and nationally, that these abhorrent crimes still take place in our communities. We must collectively continue to do all that we can to tackle issues of forced marriage and honour based abuse. Everyone has a right to choose and to be safe.
“In signing the pledge today, I am committing to the people of Leeds, and all victims of these crimes that we will continue to do everything to support them through these terrible experiences and work with our partners across the district to provide a city-wide response to these offences.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “I was very willing when asked to sign the pledge which helps to ensure victims get the protection they deserve.
“Tackling “honour” based abuse remains a focus and priority in my Police and Crime Plan 2016-21 and I will continue to work closely with the police and other key partners, such as Karma Nirvana, to raise awareness of these difficult issues, encourage victims and survivors to come forward and help to provide the proper and dedicated support needed.
“Often the victims of “honour” based abuse can feel totally isolated from their own families and find it very difficult to come forward for a number of complex reasons. It’s crucial that events such as this one are held to re-inforce a wider understanding of such abuse, as well as remembering those who have suffered so much as a result, and in the end tragically lost their lives.”
Anyone wishing to report concerns about forced marriage or honour based violence, whether for themselves or someone they know, can talk to the police via 101, or 999 in an emergency.
People can also contact other agencies for support, such as Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 249 and Childline on 0800 1111
More information about the new forced marriage legislation and support available for victims or those concerned about a friend or family member is available on the West Yorkshire Police website at: www.westyorkshire.police.uk/forcedmarriage