Judge highlights ‘serious procedural problem’ in efforts to prevent forced marriage

A High Court judge says guidance may be needed to solve a “serious procedural problem” related to efforts to prevent forced marriage.

Mr Justice Holman said Foreign Office officials may wrongly think they cannot directly launch legal action.

The judge, based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has alerted ministers, and outlined his concerns in a written ruling on a case he analysed earlier this month.

The judge said Metropolitan Police chiefs had raised concern about the daughter of Somali couple living in England and asked him to make a forced marriage protection order.

He said evidence suggested the Foreign Office’s forced marriage unit, not police, had been directly involved with the girl and should have asked for an order.

The judge said an official had told a police officer the unit did not “have the capability” to “take out” orders.

He said that suggestion was “unconvincing” and the case highlighted a “serious procedural problem” he had encountered before.

Mr Justice Holman said a “clear message” had to be sent to ministers.

The judge said if forced marriage unit staff had concerns, it was “open to them” to begin legal action, not rely on police chiefs.

He suggested a more senior judge might need to give guidance.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Kate Collins / PA Wire.

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