Forced Marriage

On 16th June 2014 forced marriage became a criminal offence.

Section 120 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 section 63CA is inserted into the Family Law Act 1996.  That provision created the criminal offence of breaching a forced-marriage protection order.

Section 121 of the 2014 Act makes it a criminal offence to use violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a forced marriage.

There will be a maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment for committing a forced-marriage offence, and a maximum penalty of 5 years for breach of a forced-marriage protection order.

The issue of forced marriage has been under consideration by the Government for some time and has proved to be a difficult area upon which to legislate.

The legislation followed a consultation paper published in December 2011 which sought views on how the new offence should be framed, specifically on a proposal to use, as a model, the existing offence of breaching a non-molestation order which a court may make to protect a person from domestic violence.  That consultation also sought views on whether forcing people to marry against their will should become a criminal offence, or if the existing civil remedy was sufficient.  A majority was in favour of the creation of a new offence, and the Government concluded that criminal offences were necessary, in addition to the civil regime, to act as an effective deterrent, to properly punish perpetrators and to fulfil the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Istanbul Convention signed in 2012.

We wait to see the impact of the Act in practice.

Denise Herman, Public Family and Child Care Partner
0845 604 2847