Skip to main content

Accessibility controls

Main content area

So-Called Honour-Based Abuse and Forced Marriage: Guidance on Identifying and Flagging cases

Revised: September 2019|Legal Guidance, Domestic abuse


Forced marriage:

The definition of forced marriage to be used will be in line with the offence under section 121 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

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.

For the CPS we are seeking to record:

  • specific forced marriage offences under section 121 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014;
  • a breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order under section 120 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and
  • any criminal offence of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) that has been carried out in the context of a forced marriage either:
    • to coerce a party/parties into marrying without their consent, which would be prosecuted for the specific offence committed, e.g. harassment, kidnap, threats to kill; or
    • After a forced marriage without the consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor, which again would be prosecuted for the specific offence e.g. rape, sexual assault.

If these crimes are committed in forcing or having forced someone to marry, they should be identified as "forced marriage" on the CMS Case Management System as well as by the named offence.

Forced marriage situations could also involve, for example, the specific offences of:

  • Harassment:
  • Kidnap;
  • Blackmail;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Common assault, actual/grievous bodily harm;
  • Threats to kill;
  • Child abduction;
  • Rape or other sexual offences
  • Immigration offences;
  • Fraud;
  • Marriage offences;
  • People trafficking; and
  • Controlling, causing or inciting prostitution.

So-Called Honour Based Abuse:

The definition of “honour” based abuse to be used is:

“an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/ or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour.”

For the CPS we are seeking to record any criminal offence of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) committed as so-called honour crime. Cases would be prosecuted for the specific offence committed, e.g. common assault, GBH, harassment, kidnap, rape, threats to kill, murder. These crimes should be identified as "honour crimes" on the CMS Case Management System as well as by the named offence.

Additionally, honour based crimes could include:

  • Attempted murder;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Procuring an abortion;
  • Encouraging or assisting suicide;
  • Conspiracy to murder;
  • Conspiracy to commit a variety of assaults.

Guidance on Procedures

The flags for monitoring forced marriage and honour crimes will be on CMS, alongside the flags for Domestic Violence, Rape etc as in Screen 1. The term “honour based violence” remains for this flag at the present time, reflecting the terminology previously used.

If you are asked to give advice on a straightforward matter involving issues around Forced Marriage or Honour Based Abuse there is nothing to preclude a case being dealt with by a duty prosecutor.

The prosecutor should flag the case appropriately, identifying flags for monitoring honour based violence and forced marriage as well as any others that may be relevant.

The file, when submitted, should be referred through to a specialist honour based and forced marriage prosecutor. The prosecutor will then check that the case has been correctly flagged and advise how this should be allocated.

If the case involves complex issues, then a face-to-face meeting between the police and a specialist prosecutor should be sought. Examples of such cases could include:

  • Homicide cases;
  • Cases involving difficult victim and witness issues, including witness intimidation and protection;
  • Serious sexual offences;
  • Cases with multiple defendants and victims; or
  • Cases involving evidence form other jurisdictions.

For specialist prosecutors:

The specialist prosecutor should ensure any flagging required is included on the file and flagged on CMS immediately, if not this has not already been done.

The specialist prosecutor should also advise as to whether the file needs to be individually allocated to a specialist lawyer. Cases which are more likely to require individual allocation are cases:

  • that involve complexity either because of legal or victim and witness issues;
  • that may require expert evidence;
  • involving cross-jurisdiction issues including letters of request; and those involving
  • serious assault or sexual offending.

Flags required for both Forced Marriage and Honour based Abuse Crimes:

If within a domestic abuse situation within the family:

For domestic abuse - Family members are defined as mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, and grandparents, whether directly related, in laws or step-family:

  • If adult victim and defendant - flag "FM" or "HBV" and "Domestic Violence"
  • If Under 18 victim flag - "FM" or "HBV" and "DV" and "Child abuse"
  • If Under 18 defendant flag - "FM" or "HBV" and "DV" and "Youth Offender"
  • If Under 18 victim and Under 18 defendant - flag "FM" or "HBV" and "DV" and "Child abuse" and "Youth offender" .
  • If forced marriage and so-called honour-based violence - flag as above with both "FM" and "HBV".

If outside of domestic abuse context, with defendants or victims falling outside of family definition above e.g. extended family or contract killer:

As above but without flagging DV.

Change of offence

The flag should be applied at registration of any of the above offences and remain even if there is a subsequent change of offence, unless a flag has been applied in error.

Why is this data needed?

The data is required across government to report on the performance of dealing with these cases, as well as an assessment of performance within the CPS Violence against Women (VAW) strategy. Data will be shared with the Forced Marriage Unit and other government departments as needed.

What will be monitored?

Data will be continue to be monitored in the VAWG Report, with information on: the equality profile of defendants (and victims where possible); pre-charge decisions; and the outcome of the cases. This data is for publication and the CPS is held to account upon it.

Further reading

Scroll to top