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Forced Marriage: A Criminal Offence

Paul Walters, a Solicitor in Astle Paterson’s Family Department, comments on the criminalisation of forcing people into marriage.

As confirmed at section 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, as of 16th June 2014:-

“ (1)    A person commits [a criminal] offence under the law of England and Wales 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 free and full consent…

(3)     A person commits an offence under the law of England and Wales if he or she—

(a)     practises any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the United Kingdom, and

(b)     intends the other person to be subjected to conduct outside the United Kingdom that is an offence under subsection (1) or would be an offence under that subsection if the victim were in England or Wales…

(9)     A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a)     on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine or both;

(b)     on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years.”

As reported on the BBC website “Home Secretary Theresa May said the practice [of forced marriage] was “a tragedy for each and every victim”.

She said the criminalisation – under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – was “a further move by the government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and the freedom to choose”.

Under the new law, breaching a forced marriage protection order – which can be issued by civil courts to prevent people being married against their will – has also been criminalised.

It now carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison …

Last year, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,302 cases.”

Paul noted that “This law makes forced marriage a criminal offence and confirms that it is punishable by up to seven years in prison.   It should prove to be a very useful tool in combating the pushing of people into marriage against their will and should hopefully deter the perpetrators in the future.”

Please contact Paul Walters, Solicitor in Astle Paterson’s Family Department on 01283 531366 or by way of email to his secretary at hhall@astlepaterson.co.uk.

Please click to read the BBC article, ‘Forced marriage law ‘a huge step forward’ and to read section 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

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