Protecting victims of honour-based violence

By Adam Simmonds

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) today published their report, The depths of dishonour: Hidden voices and shameful crimes, which 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.

Honour-based violence is the term used to refer to a collection of practices used predominantly to control the behaviour of women and girls within families or other social groups in order to protect supposed cultural and religious beliefs, values and social norms in the name of ‘honour’.

HMIC found that the police are not sufficiently prepared to effectively protect victims of honour-based violence, including forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The service provided to victims must improve, given that they face unique difficulties in reporting such incidents and crimes. HMIC recommends 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 report marks a welcome focus on the role of the police in protecting the most vulnerable in our society. It is right that the inspection has been critical of a large number of forces, including Northamptonshire Police. Honour-based violence, forced marriage and FGM are extremely complex, committed by those closest to and often trusted by the victim.

I want us to recognise that the police’s top priority has always been to protect victims from these horrific crimes that have existed for decades. But as our understanding of such offences develops and the prevalence continues to emerge, the police must continue to work hard to ensure victims and those at risk are assured that police forces will be there to protect and help them in such difficult circumstances.

As I outlined in my Police and Crime Plan for Northamptonshire, honour‐based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation have a significant impact on individuals, families and communities, and still remain hidden. I’m pleased that Northamptonshire Police and partners are already working to improve in the areas recommended by HMIC to prevent and respond to these horrific crimes.

Through Northamptonshire’s Safeguarding Children Board we now have a strong partnership group to develop our multi-agency response to female genital mutilation. This is supported by a dedicated Community Group, with representatives from across communities and FGM support organisations, working alongside one another to inform and develop the most effective response.

Northamptonshire Police are also developing a Community Engagement Strategy, to build strong relationships across communities to improve confidence and encourage victims and those at risk to report such crimes. But there is still a lot more to do to protect victims and those at risk, and I will ensure that Northamptonshire Police will continue to prioritise the prevention of, and response to, honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation as they continue to protect the most vulnerable.

I have been committed to putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system in Northamptonshire – we now have the dedicated Voice service for all victims of crime, anti-social behaviour and road incidents offering the very best support – and we will ensure victims of these terrible crimes can easily access the support they need to cope, recover and thrive.