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"Honour crimes" and forced marriage

What is a so-called 'honour' crime?

So-called 'honour based violence' is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.

'So-called Honour Crime' is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights.

There is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up 'violence in the name of so-called honour'.

The simplicity of the above definition is not intended in any way to minimise the levels of violence, harm and hurt caused by such acts.

(definition used by the Metropolitan Police Working Group on honour based violence)

What is a forced marriage?

In a forced marriage you are coerced into marrying someone against your will. You may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed to do so. It is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis.

It’s not the same as an arranged marriage where you have a choice as to whether to accept the arrangement or not. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and countries for a very long time.

(Definition from the Foreign and Commonwealth office)

Both 'honour crimes' and forced marriage are forms of domestic violence.

Forced Marriage (civil protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25th November 2008

Recommendations on future work on forced marriage and so-called 'honour' crime

CPS pilot on forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ crime – findings

Policy for prosecuting domestic violence

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CPS study on 'honour' crime prosecutions published

04/12/2008

Prosecutors will be better able to tackle cases of so-called 'honour' crime following a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) study, the first it has undertaken.

A project running in Lancashire, London, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands from 1 July 2007 to 31 March 2008 tasked specially trained prosecutors with identifying and monitoring forced marriage and so-called 'honour' crime cases for the first time. It aimed to identify the number and pattern of these cases and any issues facing prosecutors in accurately identifying, managing and prosecuting them.

In total, 35 cases of forced marriage and/or so-called 'honour' crime were identified during the nine-month pilot period. Of these cases, 21 were concluded and analysed. They involved 33 victims and 47 offences ranging from murder, kidnap and false imprisonment through to common assault and public order offences. The cases have been anonymised in the report to guard against further reprisals against, or re-traumatisation of, victims.

Nazir Afzal, CPS Honour Crimes Lead Advisor and Sector Director for London South said:

"We now have a clearer picture of these offences which we can use to provide the best support we can to victims and prosecute those who are committing these offences as robustly as possible.

"Although the overall number of cases identified is small they are important because they often result in serious offences.

"In a number of cases, victims were identified as vulnerable or intimidated. The danger faced by many of these victims indicates a need to deal with these cases sensitively and to ensure that safety is at the forefront of prosecutors' minds. By flagging up these cases as early as possible, we and the police can make sure that specialised support and expertise are brought in quickly."

Key findings included:

  • all defendants in the pilot were male and it was not unusual for there to be more than one defendant involved in committing the offence(s);
  • where there was one victim and one defendant their relationship was mostly spouse/ex-spouse;
  • often the relationship between the victim(s) and defendant(s) was complex and it was not unusual for the relationship to fall outside a domestic violence situation;
  • victims were both male and female, but the male victims were in crimes revolving around a relationship with a women, who herself suffered harm within a situation of male family control.

Feedback received from prosecutors reported a generally strong level of confidence across the various aspects of handling cases. Particular areas where confidence was lower included getting the most suitable expert to court to support the case and confidence in responding to different communities.

Recommendations from the findings outlined in the pilot focus on the:

  • prosecution of cases;
  • support for victims and witnesses; and
  • future flagging of cases

The pilot report indicated that the selection of specialist prosecutors, provision of prosecution guidance, flagging guidance and training helped the confidence of prosecutors in identifying and prosecuting cases.

Among the recommendations, prosecution guidance to lawyers will be revised to address the issues raised in the pilot report and the CPS will look at improving sources of advice, training and the involvement of external speakers in that training to help understand cultural issues.

Ends

  1. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office 020 7710 6088. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926
  2. The full report and recommendations are available on the CPS website or from the press office:
  3. The 2008 CPS Violence Against Women Strategy aims to secure the coordination and improved prosecution response to a range of crimes, including forced marriage and so-called 'honour' crimes.
  4. Within London there were four participating Boroughs (Newham, Brent, Tower Hamlets and Ealing).
  5. The new Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, which came into force on the 25th November, will provide greater protection for those at risk, preventing forced marriage and enabling courts to make orders to protect victims.
  6. The definition which is being used for forced marriage is in line with that that used by the Home Office Working Group:
    • 'A marriage without the consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor'
    • The court of appeal clarified that duress is: 'whether the mind of the applicant has been overborne, howsoever that was caused'.
    • An arranged marriage is very different from a forced marriage. An arranged marriage is entered into freely by both people, although their families take a leading role in the choice of partner.
  7. The definition of so-called honour crimes was that used by the Metropolitan Police Working Group on honour based violence:
    1. "So-called 'honour based violence' is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community".
    2. 'So-called Honour Crime' is a fundamental abuse of Human Rights.
    3. There is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and the many other acts, behaviour and conduct which make up 'violence in the name of so-called honour'.
    4. The simplicity of the above definition is not intended in any way to minimise the levels of violence, harm and hurt caused by such acts.
    5. It is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family or community by breaking their honour code.
    6. Women are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims of 'so called honour based violence', which is used to assert male power in order to control female autonomy and sexuality.
    7. So-called Honour Crime can be distinguished from other forms of violence, as it is often committed with some degree of approval or collusion from family or community members.
    8. Examples may include murder, un-explained death (suicide), fear of or actual forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic violence (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, threats to kill, assault, harassment, forced abortion.
  8. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  9. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on our website: www.cps.gov.uk
  10. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. The Protocol is published on our website at: