England 12/05/2013 – In the UK, family law is constantly evolving, and the 2013 Queen’s speech has confirmed another change
In June 2012, the Home Secretary announced that, in the UK, forced marriage would become a criminal offence. This change in family law was confirmed in the Queen’s Speech of 2013. Importantly, the breach of a forced marriage protection order will also become a criminal offence. This change means that parents, or others, who coerce people into marriage, could potentially end up in prison.
Of course, so are concerned that turning forced marriage into a criminal offence could backfire. Some believe that incidents will be less likely to be reported because of the consequences.
However, the government says that they have listened to these concerns. They have plans to put in place a more robust support network, which they feel will go some way to addressing this issue. However, it is the fact that the civil route of taking out a forced marriage protection order will still exist that will address these concerns. It means that people, who report forced marriage can choose to take the civil, rather than the criminal, route. Changing the breach of a forced marriage protection order to a criminal offence, should give the civil process more teeth meaning that the civil approach is more effective than it once was.
In addition, the person involved will be the one to choose whether they support a criminal prosecution. However, once the prosecutorial process starts they will not be able to change their mind and stop it.
Overall, these changes in legislation are being welcomed, because it provides options to everyone involved. The consequences of forcing someone into a marriage will be serious, but there will be room for mediation and resolution outside of the criminal court system.
UK Family Law Barristers Welcome the Change
For barristers like those from the 1 Kings Bench Walk chambers the next few months will be very interesting indeed. This chamber specialises in international family law, as well as national laws, so a significant percentage of their clients are from countries where forced marriage is more prevalent. They have a reputation for taking an innovative approach to their cases and winning cases that were previously unwinnable. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how this set of barristers interprets and uses the new forced marriage legislation.