Judge: police ‘cannot’ bring contempt proceedings in forced marriage case

Family|Family Law|News|July 30th 2013

The police do not have the power to bring contempt of court proceedings for alleged breaches of forced marriage law, a judge has declared.

The case concerned a girl who went to Bedfordshire police after her family allegedly threatened her to kill her if she did not agree to a forced marriage overseas. The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was then made the subject of a forced marriage protection order, the  Telegraph reports, a legal ruling designed to prevent her family from proceeding with their alleged plans. Breaches are subject to imprisonment for up to two years. Her mother was forbidden from trying to arrange a marriage and the girl could not travel abroad.

But earlier this year the girl went back to the police, reportedly in a “distressed state”, saying she had just been made to marry a man she had met only once at a ceremony in Luton.

The Police launched proceedings for contempt of court against the girl’s mother and her aunt, but they denied forcing her to marry anyone against her will.

However, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, Mr Justice Holman said the police did not have the power to charge the women under current legislation and dismissed the case.

The judge said:

“It has not to date been the role of the police to join into private civil proceedings and apply to enforce orders of the civil courts. I am clear that the police cannot properly make nor now proceed with the present application.”

The judge urged the government to strengthen current legislation.

“Forced marriages are a scourge which denigrates the victim and can create untold human misery. It is vital that forced marriage protection orders have real teeth.”

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