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Multi-agency practice guidelines: Handling cases of Forced Marriage

These practice guidelines have been developed alongside the statutory guidance “The Right to Choose” issued in November 2008 under s.63 Q(1) Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. The statutory guidance sets out the responsibilities of Chief Executives, Directors and Senior Managers within agencies involved with handling cases of forced marriage. It covers issues such as staff training, developing inter-agency policies and procedures, raising awareness and developing prevention programmes through outreach work.

This document seeks to supplement the statutory guidance with advice and support to front line practitioners who have responsibilities to safeguard children and protect adults from the abuses associated with forced marriage. As it is unlikely that any single agency will be able to meet all the needs of someone affected by forced marriage, this document sets out a multi-agency response and encourages agencies to cooperate and work together closely to protect victims.

Forcing someone to marry is a criminal offence. It is child abuse, domestic abuse and a form of violence against women and men; it should form part of existing child and adult protection structures, policies and procedures.

In 2013, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) received calls in relation to a possible or actual forced marriage in over 1300 cases; however forced marriage still remains a hidden practice as many more cases remain unreported. The topics covered in this document include:

  • A victim-focused approach.
  • The dangers of family mediation.
  • The importance of information-sharing.
  • Venues for interviews.
  • Future contact and meetings.
  • Personal safety advice and strategies for leaving home.
  • Missing persons and young people who run away.
  • Confidentiality and security of information.
  • Record keeping.

Where a victim may have a learning disability. The following areas also need to be considered:

  • Issues surrounding capacity to consent and use of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
  • Reasons why people with a learning disability are forced into marriage.
  • Consequences for the person with a learning disability and (actual or potential) spouse.
  • Good practice in handling cases.
  • Ongoing support required if the person cannot live with their family.