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Laws to tackle forced marriage rejected

16 June 2006

A specific offence of forcing someone into marriage will not be created, after a consultation exercise proved inconclusive.

Respondents to the document ‘Forced Marriage: A Wrong not a Right’ were split between creating a new offence (34 per cent) or not (37 per cent). Respondents’ concerns included fears that victims could be isolated, reconciliation with families prevented and the practice of forced marriage would be driven underground.

Significantly, 74 per cent of police, Crown Prosecution Service and Probation Service respondents felt that “existing legislation was sufficient to tackle cases of forced marriage”. All respondents also agreed that, if new laws were introduced, families would attempt to get around them by removing potential victims from the UK, while 88 per cent thought the expense in creating a new offence would not be justified.

Of respondents who did support the introduction of a specific criminal offence, the most popular was ‘creating a new offence of facilitating or bearing witness to a marriage which is known or suspected to be forced’, which attracted 21.65 per cent support.

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: “Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence which cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds. This consultation has been very useful in stimulating debate and generating recommendations from those with expertise in the field.”

The summary of responses to the Forced Marriage Unit consultation can be found on www.fco.gov.uk.

 

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Procedures Divorce Wills, Trusts & Probate