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Criminalisation of forced marriage becomes law on 16th June

Legislation provides for maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment

New offences in respect of forced marriage take effect from 16 June 2014: see the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Commencement No. 2, Transitional and Transitory Provisions) Order 2014, art 5.

By section 120 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 section 63CA is inserted in to the Family Law Act 1996. That provision creates a 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 seven years imprisonment for committing a forced marriage offence and a maximum penalty of five years for breach of a forced marriage protection order.

The legislation followed a consultation 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 someone to marry against their will should become a criminal offence, or whether the existing civil remedy, set out in Part 4A in the Family Law Act 1996, was sufficient. A majority were 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 international obligations under the Istanbul Convention signed in 2012.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, Partner at Dawson Cornwell, will be giving an interview on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour on the criminalisation of forced marriage. The programme, airing at 10 a.m. on Monday 16 June 2014, will discuss the issues surrounding the Government's decision.