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Police forces urged to improve understanding of forced marriage and FGM

HMIC report reveals weaknesses in police response

The police must better understand honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation in order to provide victims with the best possible service and encourage those affected to come forward, a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found.

The report, 'The depths of dishonour: Hidden voices and shameful crimes', examines the approach of police forces in England and Wales in relation to the protection of people from harm caused by honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and at supporting victims of these offences.

Inspectors found that the police are not sufficiently prepared to protect effectively victims of honour-based violence, including forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Despite there being pockets of good practice, the service provided to victims must improve, given that they face unique difficulties in reporting such incidents and crimes. Forces must also improve engagement with community groups that support the interests of victims, in order to understand better the complexities cases of honour-based violence can pose, which will give victims and those affected the confidence to come forward.

The inspectors found that there are well trained and experienced officers who can identify and protect victims at an early stage; however, they are spread thinly. Some forces approach cases of honour-based violence by adapting existing domestic abuse and child protection procedures. While there are similarities, the HMIC believes that this approach doesn't take into account the specific challenges cases of honour-based violence pose. The police service must ensure officers are properly trained to identify cases of honour-based violence, and understand the appropriate approach to take.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

"The first response victims receive is the most important, and the courage they have shown to contact the police must not be undone by forces being ill-prepared. Raising levels of awareness will improve the response to honour-based violence and the confidence of potential victims to report incidents and crimes to the police. That, in turn, will go a significant way towards addressing the unreported nature of these offences.

"We have carried out extensive research, speaking with victims of these incidents, as well as the organisations who support them, and one thing was clear: incidents and crimes of this nature are not unique to one culture, community or geographical area – the hidden nature of these crimes means that it is likely that, of the victims who come forward, there are many more who haven't. It is imperative that the police show victims that when they come forward they will receive the best possible service and be treated with the utmost care."

HMIC has also published the results of a research project, which includes the first-hand experiences of victims of honour-based violence. This research was carried out by the University of Bristol and in collaboration with the University of Roehampton, on behalf of HMIC, to inform this inspection.