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Toughen forced marriage law - judge

Legislation designed to stop women being forced into marriage needs strengthening, a High Court judge has suggested.

Mr Justice Holman said ministers should consider improving the effectiveness of forced marriage protection orders.

He was speaking at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London after dismissing contempt of court applications made against two women accused of breaching a forced marriage protection order prior to a Muslim wedding ceremony in Luton, Bedfordshire.

Police said the women had breached the order - imposed by a judge to protect a teenage girl - and asked for them to be ruled in contempt of court.

But Mr Justice Holman dismissed claims against the women after concluding that police did not have the legal authority to bring such contempt applications in civil courts.

The judge said ministers should consider changes to improve the effectiveness of legislation designed to prevent forced marriages.

"It has not to date been the role of the police to join into private civil proceedings and apply to enforce orders of the civil courts," said Mr Justice Holman. I am clear that the police cannot properly make nor now proceed with the present application."

A civil court had made the Forced Marriage Protection Order in 2012 after the girl complained about relatives and ''expressed fears'', the judge heard.

The two women had denied breaching the Forced Marriage Protection Order and said they had not forced the girl to marry.

"Forced marriages are a scourge which denigrates the victim and can create untold human misery," said Mr Justice Holman. "It is vital that Forced Marriage Protection Orders have real teeth."


From Belfast Telegraph