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Forced Marriage (Prosecutions)

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2012

None personally, but the Home Office recently concluded its public consultation on forced marriage and the Prime Minister has announced our intention to sign the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which will require us to criminalise forced marriage. Currently, in this jurisdiction there is no specific crime of forced marriage, and offences within that term are prosecuted under, for example, the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Sexual Offences Act 2003, or other suitable statutes.

Every year in this country, thousands of children are subjected to the cruelty of forced marriage. The Government are quite right in what they say and they will act against this, but nothing at all was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. Can the Solicitor-General tell us exactly when we will have a Bill in this House so that we can outlaw this barbaric practice 100%?

No, I cannot say precisely when we will have a Bill to outlaw this barbaric practice, but I can assure him that our signing of the convention will lead inexorably in that direction.

Can my hon. and learned Friend inform the House what penalties are envisaged for this terrible crime once it is made a criminal offence?

No, but the penalties will be quite severe. The only guidance I can give my hon. Friend is to look at the penalties imposed under existing convictions. For example, last year there were 42 prosecutions for forced marriage under the various statutes I have referred to, a number of which led to quite lengthy sentences.