The first person in the UK to be jailed under forced marriage laws introduced last year has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The man, who was already married, raped his victim for months, threatened to show hidden camera footage of her in the shower unless she became his wife, and threatened her family if she told anyone of the abuse. The court heard that the man had preyed on his victim for years. After months of raping the woman, the man turned up at her work and drove her to a mosque to get married and threatened to kill her parents if the woman did not marry him
The man admitted four counts of rape, forced marriage, bigamy and voyeurism. In addition to the prison sentence the man was also given an extended licence for five years and will remain on the sex offender register for an indefinite period.
What is a forced marriage?
A marriage is a forced marriage if it takes place without the full consent of one or both parties. Forced marriage an abuse of a person’s human rights
Force can include:
- threats, actual physical violence and/or sexual violence
- emotional and psychological force (for example when someone is made to feel like they are bringing shame on their family)
- financial abuse (for example demanding someone should account for all the money they spend)
Forced marriages includes situations in which someone is not able to understand what they are consenting to. This can be the case where a person has learning or physical disabilities that make communication difficult.
As from 16 June 2014 forcing someone into marriage is a criminal offence under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. There are a range of sentences available to the court with a maximum custodial sentence of 7 years.
A person commits an offence if he or she
(a) uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a marriage, and
(b) believes, or ought reasonably to believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without the free and full consent
(c)practises any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the United Kingdom, and
(d) intends the other person to be subjected to conduct outside the United Kingdom that is an offence or would be an offence if the victim were in England or Wales.
Many victims of forced marriage do not want to report to the police due to a fear that their families will be prosecuted and/ or because of the repercussions from failed prosecutions, or it may make it more difficult for victims to reconcile with their families. The criminal offences work alongside existing civil legislation which has been in place since 2008. Forced marriage protection orders ( FMPO’s) were brought in by the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which introduced Part 4A Family Law Act 1996.
FMPOs are aimed at preventing a person being forced into marriage. The orders can be tailored to an individuals circumstances and can include making orders to hand over passports, revealing the whereabouts of a person and stopping someone from being taken abroad. If a forced marriage has taken place the orders can for example instruct a person to ensure the victim is safely brought back to the UK or if a victim is in a country where the law states that they need someone else’s permission leave, a FMPO could state that the person responsible must grant permission for the victim to leave.
Applications can be made by the person at risk of being forced into marriage, by ‘relevant third parties’ currently local authorities or any other person with the permission of the court such as friends, support workers
Orders can be made against multiple people and any person in the UK or outside, who is, or has been, involved in any way. This could be family members or a person who is making arrangements for the wedding or for flights or conducting the ceremony itself.
Breaching a FMPO is a criminal offence also from June 2014 punishable by up to 5 years in prison
The Forced Marriage Unit provides information and practical advice to anyone affected by forced marriage. The Unit abroad works with embassy staff to assist victims who may have been held against their will. Their website contains useful information.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know is being forced into marriage or is at risk of being forced into marriage our accredited Domestic abuse solicitors work can work closely with other local agencies and provide advice on all of the options open to you.