Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 09:02 UK

Witness plan for 'honour' cases

Forced Marriage Unit poster
A special government unit tackles the issue of forced marriages

Police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are being urged to review their witness protection schemes to help combat "honour crimes".

A new Association of Chief Police Officers document aims to help forces identify potential victims and ensure all steps are taken to protect them.

It says it is also essential religious and community leaders are encouraged to speak out against such crimes.

Every year police investigate about a dozen suspected honour killings.

Honour crimes are described as attacks or killings where the perpetrator's motive is to protect what they consider to be a family, clan or community's honour.

Police also investigate an average of 500 reports a year from people who fear being forced into marriage or people who are in a forced marriage and have been threatened or abused.

'Perverted notions'

Some 65% of the forced marriage cases dealt with by a specialist government team involve Pakistani families.

Experts say honour crimes can be seen in many different cultures.

The move by Acpo comes on the eve of new laws to protect potential victims of forced marriages.

The strategy document, which contains 19 recommendations, says that under no circumstances should honour-crime victims be turned away and told that honour-based violence is not the police's problem.

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Incidents must be properly recorded and investigated, says the document.

Potential victims should be given witness protection because of the dangers they face, even if they are not prepared to make a statement against the people thought to be threatening their safety.

Steve Allen, a Metropolitan Police commander and Acpo's lead on honour-based violence said: "To the best of our knowledge, 12 people are murdered every year for transgressing someone else's perverted notions of honour.

"We do not know how many commit suicide as an alternative or an escape.

"We know that around 500 men and women report to us every year their fear of being forced into marriage, or their experience of rape, assault, false imprisonment and much more, as the consequence of being in marriage without their consent.

We will do everything in our power, working alongside our communities, to keep people safe and end these abuses
Steve Allen, Acpo

"The police response to this issue has nothing to do with political correctness and nothing to do with inappropriate sensitivities.

"The police response is about saving life, protecting those at risk of harm and bringing perpetrators to account. We will do everything in our power, working alongside our communities, to keep people safe and end these abuses."

Next month sees the introduction of new powers to use court orders to protect people from forced marriages.

The special sanctions, ordered by a judge, will allow police to seize passports or take other steps, including arrest, to prevent someone forcing a man or a woman into a marriage they do not want.

Anyone who breaks an order will face jail.

Crucially, the law has been drawn up to allow third parties to intervene where the victim is too scared to act or contact the authorities.

Campaigners from a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds have lobbied for years for more help on forced marriages and honour crimes, with some accusing leading community figures of ignoring the problem.




SEE ALSO
Success for honour crime helpline
01 Sep 08 |  Cambridgeshire
New forced marriage power planned
13 Dec 07 |  UK Politics

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