Ministry of Justice
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Victim protection for forced marriages - new law comes into force
New legislation to protect victims of forced marriage and prevent others from the same fate comes into force today.
The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 will enable courts to prevent forced marriages and order those responsible for forcing another into marriage to change their behaviour or face jail. It also provides recourse for those already forced into marriage.
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said:
"This new law is a powerful tool that will help ensure that no-one is forced into marriage against their will and those already in such marriages will receive protection.
"It is fitting that the law comes into force on White Ribbon Day; the ribbon is a symbol of hope and challenges the acceptability of domestic violence.
"Our policies reinforce that hope and send a clear message that we are committed to providing support and help to victims and that violence of any kind will not be tolerated."
Under the Act, a Forced Marriage Protection Order will contain terms that are designed to protect the victim in their particular circumstances. Failure to comply with an order could lead to imprisonment.
Examples of the types of orders the court may make to prevent a forced marriage from occurring are:
* to hand over passports;
* to stop intimidation and violence;
* to reveal the whereabouts of a person; and
* to stop someone from being taken abroad.
The Act supports and has been made possible by the work of the Home Office and Foreign Office's joint 'Forced Marriage Unit' and the many voluntary and charitable organisations that provide support.
Shaminder Ubhi, Director of the Ashiana Network said:
"We very much hope that the Forced Marriage Act will be of value to those at risk of forced marriage; the measures have been put in place to enable people to seek protection through court orders and we hope this will help prevent forced marriages and assist those already forced into marriages. Understandably, not all people will want to seek legal redress but certainly this Act sends a clear message that forced marriage will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be held accountable".
Importantly, the Act gives the courts discretion to deal flexibly and sensitively with the circumstances of each individual case. It employs civil remedies that offer protection to victims without criminalising members of their family.
Following public consultation, the Government is also publishing today statutory guidance setting out the strategic responsibilities of agencies in England and Wales who may be involved with handling cases of forced marriage.
Alan Campbell, Home Office Minister said:
"We are determined to do all we can to support victims of forced marriage, prevent others from becoming victims and provide police and other agencies the tools and powers they need. We are bringing into force statutory guidance for agencies such as the police, education professionals and health and social workers which pull together existing guidelines on how to recognise and handle cases of forced marriage.
"We have consulted with all agencies that have a duty to safeguard children and adults to bring together this guidance and we are confident that it will improve the support we can provide to victims of this appalling practice."
Notes to Editors
1. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act can be viewed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2007/20070020.htm
2. Bridget Prentice will be speaking at H.O.P.E Training & Consultancy & Leicestershire Constabulary conference in Leicester on 25 November. She will launch the act to an audience of stakeholders, professionals and interested parties brought together to talk about forced marriage, honour crimes and cultural killings.
3. The joint FCO/Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) was launched in January 2005 as the UK's "one stop shop" for developing Government policy on forced marriage, co-ordinating outreach projects and providing support and information to those at risk: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/fco-in-action/nationals/forced-marriage-unit/
4. The Act enables a victim or a relevant third party to make an application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order without the court's permission. Any other person may only apply if they obtain the court's permission first. A relevant third party is a person (or an organisation), specified by the Lord Chancellor who may apply on behalf of another without obtaining the permission of the court. The Government plans to specify Local Authorities as relevant third parties once the necessary safeguards are in place and this is expected to take effect at a later date. Until then anyone, including Local Authorities will still be able to apply for a forced marriage protection order on behalf of a victim of forced marriage with the leave of the court.
5. Across the justice system we want to do more to ensure the voice of victims is heard. That's why the Government has created a Victim's Advisory Panel to inform policy, introduced impact statements giving families of murder victims a chance to have their say in court, and we intend to appoint a Victims Commissioner that will provide a powerful voice for victims in government and beyond.
6. The White Ribbon Campaign UK is part of the global campaign to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women. Visit the campaign's website at: http://www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk
7. Earlier this year Bridget Prentice visited the Ashiana Project in East London. A video of this visit is at http://tiny.cc/lxLs4 and you can read more here http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease190608a.htm. A video about the work of the Government's Forced Marriage Unit can be viewed at http://tiny.cc/4z3Cg.
8. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the MoJ's public enquiry unit via email email@example.com or by phone on 020 3334 3555.