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Explaining The Law on Forced Marriages

Explaining The Law On Forced Marriages


Forced marriages are now a criminal offence, under section 121 of the Family Law Act 1996.


The Act, which via section 120, also makes breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order a criminal offence as opposed to something that could only be dealt with as contempt of court, criminalises the intentional forcing of a person into entering a marriage whilst believing that the person does not consent.


It also criminalises the act of deceiving someone into going abroad for the specific purpose of a forced marriage.


An offence has been committed under this Act whether or not the marriage actually takes place, and will be committed where violence, threats or coercion are used to force someone to enter a marriage they do not consent to.


Where the victim lacks capacity to consent (as defined under the Mental Capacity Act 2005) the offence can be committed by any conduct, even if it does not amount to using violence, threats or coercion.


The offence can also be charged alongside other offences that have been committed, such as harassment, fraud, false imprisonment, common assault, etc.


Prosecutions will be dealt with by specialist honour based and forced marriage prosecutors and serious cases may be individually assigned to specialist lawyers within the prosecution service.


Civil remedies remain available for victims separately as set out in the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.


While it is difficult to ascertain how many forced marriages are entered into within the UK, the Forced Marriages Unit provided an estimate of 1,485 forced marriages in the UK in 2012. In reality, the figure will be much higher as it is a hidden crime. For example, over 300 requests for help related to forced marriages are received each year in Luton alone.


Forcing someone to enter into a marriage is an offence that can be dealt with in the magistrates or crown court and can result in a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment.


If you are being accused of forcing someone to enter into a marriage, call us now for expert advice on 01623 397200.


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