Skip to main content

Forced Marriages

Volume 643: debated on Thursday 21 June 2018

1. What steps the CPS is taking to improve the rate of prosecution of people responsible for forced marriages. (905990)

2. What steps the CPS is taking to improve the rate of prosecution of people responsible for forced marriages. (905991)

The Crown Prosecution Service takes forced marriage very seriously and the prosecution of these crimes remains a priority. In May of this year the CPS secured the first two convictions under the specific offence of forced marriage in England. These successful prosecutions send a clear message that forced marriage is unacceptable and that those responsible will be prosecuted.

We all know that women are much more likely to be the victims of forced marriage than men, but the Daily Mail reported yesterday that police in south Yorkshire had made history by issuing the first ever order to protect a male victim of forced marriage. What is the Solicitor General doing to ensure that the CPS is also aware of male victims of forced marriage?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue, and I am happy to tell him that the legal guidance and protocol used by the CPS have been updated to include the experiences of male victims, to help challenge myths and stereotypes and provide details of any support services for them. Indeed, a section on male victims was included in the forced marriage training session held in December of last year, which is now being spread locally throughout CPS areas by forced marriage leads.

My hon. Friend is right to acknowledge the challenge facing prosecutors because these prosecutions are among the most complex referred to the CPS. They involve victims being hurt and coerced by members of their own families and communities, and therefore victims coming forward is a confidence issue. But the joint CPS and police forced marriage focus group is working hard to address the challenges faced when prosecuting these crimes.

University of Nottingham research shows that victims of forced marriage quite often have learning difficulties. What special steps are the Government taking to support those very vulnerable victims?

The hon. Lady is right to acknowledge that among the complexities and the questions of confidence is the exploitation of a vulnerability or a particular disability, and that is very much part of the process that I outlined in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow). However, the intervention of the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) is helpful, and I will ensure that that focus is re-emphasised by the CPS.

Will the Attorney General outline what support is given to the victims of attempted forced marriage to provide them with a new life and a fresh start? Is the CPS equipped to signpost victims to such funding, rather than just moving on after the prosecution?

The hon. Gentleman is right to talk about the aftermath of a prosecution, and work is ongoing between the CPS and the police not just to signpost, but to provide active support for victims after their horrific experiences.

Two prosecutions does not sound like much. What is the Solicitor General’s estimate of the number of forced marriages in the UK each year?

With respect, it is difficult for me to estimate. Being realistic, prosecutions are not reflecting the number of forced marriages that exist, but we saw an increase in convictions between 2011-12 and last year from 23 to 32. We also now have over 1,500 forced marriage protection orders, which are designed to prevent the crime from taking place at all.