A boy of eight was amongst 71 young people made the subject of forced marriage protection orders in West Yorkshire since 2014, a newspaper has reported.
But only a small fraction of cases result in a conviction, the figures, obtained by The Guardian, show. While the Force has investigated 51 cases of apparent forced marriage in that time, only five resulted in criminal charges. A full 35 were dropped due to perceived problems with the evidence – in some cases, because the alleged victim are too intimidated to appear in court.
The majority of calls to an official helpline (44 per cent) concerned the threat of forced marriages within Pakistan. Only 14 per cent concerned possible forced marriages wholly within the UK.
Figures from the West Midlands – another area with a large ethnic Asian population – show a higher investigation to criminal charge ratio: 31 investigations resulted in 12 people charged.
Forced marriage was made a criminal offence in June 2014. To date, however, only one person has been convicted under the legislation – a businessman from the Cardiff area.
In an interview with the newspaper, Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer urged victims to come forward, saying forced marriage remained significantly under-reported.
Commander Mak Chishty of the Metropolitan Police said:
“My message to the community and to victims is I recognise it’s under-reported, I recognise it’s going on. I need you – through friends, family, teachers – to come and tell me and my colleagues in policing so we can help. I also appeal to the wider community to say actually this practice is out of date, it is abuse and it must be stopped. That doesn’t mean not practising your religion, this means conforming with human rights.”