Police in West Yorkshire pledge support for victims of honour-based abuse and force marriage
West Yorkshire Police has begun a new campaign to highlight the issues of forced marriage and honour-based abuse as a conference is held in Leeds.
It coincides with the third annual national day of remembrance for victims of “honour” killings, which takes place today.
July 14 was the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, originally from Bradford, who was killed by her parents in Warrington in 2003 after suffering honour-based violence and an attempted forced marriage.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson said: “Tackling forced marriage and honour-based abuse is a priority for West Yorkshire Police. There are specialist safeguarding units in every district of West Yorkshire with professionals who understand the issues and know how to help.
“There is no honour in any form of abuse. We take a victim-led approach to deal with these challenging issues which respects the views of victims and witnesses, provides the necessary support, confidentiality and protection from harm."
In June 2014 it became a crime to force someone to marry against their will, with those found guilty facing a prison sentence of up to seven years.
Police can also apply for Forced Marriage Protection Orders to safeguard victims or potential victims.
The orders place legally binding conditions on those involved in trying to force another person to marry, with a breach resulting in a prison sentence of up to five years.
Ms Hankinson said: "In these types of cases, the views of the victim are taken seriously as to whether to prosecute and can ultimately be a deciding factor. We often see that victims do not want to prosecute their family, but our aim is to make sure the victim has the necessary support and above all, is safe.”
Meanwhile, national charity Karma Nirvana is inviting police, Leeds City Council, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and other agencies to affirm their commitment to leading the way nationally when it comes to tackling the issue.
Among those set to sign a pledge at the charity's conference today is Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Police Commander.
“Hosting the national day of remembrance event in Leeds allows us to really throw the spotlight on this issue, and remind everyone, locally and nationally, that these abhorrent crimes still take place in our communities," he said.
"We must collectively continue to do all that we can to tackle issues of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. Everyone has a right to choose and to be safe."
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said he was very willing to sign the pledge to ensure victims get the protection they deserve.
He said: “Often the victims of honour-based abuse can feel totally isolated from their own families and find it very difficult to come forward for a number of complex reasons.
"It’s crucial that events such as this one are held to re-inforce a wider understanding of such abuse, as well as remembering those who have suffered so much as a result, and in the end tragically lost their lives.”
Anyone wishing to report concerns about forced marriage or honour-based violence, whether for themselves or someone they know, can talk to the police via 101 or call 999 in an emergency.
People can also contact other agencies for support, such as Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 249 and Childline on 0800 1111.
Visit www.westyorkshire.police.uk/forcedmarriagefor more information about the new forced marriage legislation and support available for victims.