New law saves 86 victims from forced marriages

But experts warn that the impetus behind the new legislation and police training on 'honour' killings is in danger of slowing

The girl was 12 when she was "married" to her 16-year-old cousin. Her "husband" then raped her, with the approval of her father, his brother and sister-in-law. It sounds like a horror story from the past in some remote part of the developing world. It happened last year, in London.

Last week in north London, a court convicted the now 17-year-old boy of rape and the Albanian girl's father, uncle and aunt of causing or inciting underage sexual activity. The court heard that the schoolgirl's father, aged 29, had staged the illegal marriage ceremony in front of his older brother, 54, and sister-in-law, 54. Police were called in after the girl's mother found out what her husband and his family had done to her child.

The case is perhaps the most horrific in the 12 months since the Forced Marriage and Civil Protection Act came into force. Judges have issued 86 forced marriage protection orders in the past year to prevent illegal marriages such as the one suffered by the girl, and helped annul marriages when the ceremony had already taken place.

Earlier this year a teenager with learning disabilities was placed on an indefinite protection order after she revealed to teachers at her special school that her parents had forced her to marry a cousin in Pakistan. Police and social services worked with the girl, who had limited capacity to make decisions, and the visa application of her "husband" was blocked.

She wanted to stay with her parents, so the order required the seizure of her passport. It prohibits anyone in her family from harassing or threatening her – a breach could lead to two years in prison. While experts believe progress has been made over the past year or so, hundreds, if not thousands, of forced marriages will have taken place without the courts' knowledge.

Forced marriage and rape are symptoms of honour-based violence (HBV). Murder in the name of "honour" is the ultimate violent crime perpetuated by relatives or members of a community in order to protect or revenge "dishonourable" behaviour. Home Office figures suggest there are around 12 honour killings in the UK every year; thousands of women are killed for the same reason across the world.

The risks involved in HBV are complex so it is essential the authorities are able to look beyond the smokescreens families will put up, according to Shahien Taj, from the women's charity, the Henna Foundation. Getting things wrong, especially at the point when a victim first comes forward, can have tragic consequences.

The murder of Geeta Aulakh, 28, a mother of two, in London last week, will be investigated by police as a potential honour killing after it emerged that her right hand – which bore the kara bracelet worn by Sikhs to remind them to strive for an "honourable" life – was hacked off by a "bladed object".

Ms Taj, fearing "honour" reprisals against the 12-year-old Albanian girl and her mother, has urged police and social services to urgently complete a HBV risk assessment to protect them from their extended family or community. Her convicted relatives have been bailed until sentencing next month.

HBV, forced marriage and female genital mutilation will all be highlighted in the police national intelligence database to be rolled out next year. And the National Policing Improvement Authority is working closely with Nikki Hubbard – the police officer who has spearheaded many of the improvements in this area – to develop a mandatory training package. But experts fear that the imminent departure to new posts of Ms Hubbard and the equally committed Commander Steve Allen could see progress stutter as many forces still rely heavily on their advice when dealing with individual cases.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, a partner at the law firm Dawson Cornwell, said: "The police and social services have become more aware and alert, and we've had some great successes over the first year, but there are still times when they don't understand who the girl could be at risk from."

Additional reporting by Victoria Richards

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable