To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many (a) convictions, (b) prosecutions, (c) arrests and (d) live, ongoing criminal investigations there were for the new crime of arranging for a child to marry between the introduction of the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Minimum Age) Act 2022 and 31 July 2023; and how many referrals the Forced Marriage Unit has received for child marriage cases in that time period.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department has (a) provided training for police officers on and (b) taken steps to monitor enforcement by police of the new crime of arranging for a child to marry since the introduction of the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Minimum Age) Act 2022; whether her Department has published guidance for police officers on (i) preventing and (ii) intervening in suspected child marriage cases; what data her Department holds on safeguarding measures introduced by police forces to help ensure that suspected child marriage cases are managed adequately; and whether she has had discussions with the Secretaries of State for Health and for Education on (A) training on, (B) monitoring of, (C) guidance on and (D) safeguarding measures for the management of such cases by (1) social workers and (2) teachers.
The Government is committed to tackling forced marriage. On 27 February 2023, we brought into force legislation which raised the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales to 18, and expanded the offence of forced marriage so it is illegal to do anything to cause a child to marry before they turn 18, even if coercion is not used.
The joint Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) has been actively raising awareness of the new forced marriage legislation in all its presentations and across its social media platforms since January 2023.
The FMU runs regular workshops and presentations for police officers, social workers, local authorities, registrars and others. In 2022, the FMU delivered training to 1,537 professionals and the unit has reached over 3,000 professionals by the end of September 2023. This includes bespoke training sessions on request to police forces. Over 650 police officers have been given this training since the legislation changed in February 2023. The Home Office also worked with the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on HBA to ensure that forces were prepared for the commencement of the legislation. This included a joint national meeting with relevant force leads and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) before the legislation came into force.
While the Home Office does not directly hold data on safeguarding measures introduced by police forces to help ensure that suspected child marriage cases are managed adequately, we do work closely with the dedicated NPCC lead for Honour Based Abuse to ensure forces have the support they need. In addition, the College of Policing published authorised professional practice guidance for officers on ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) which has been updated together with domestic abuse training and the Police Education Qualifications Framework to incorporate material about the new legislation.
Whilst there have not been dedicated meetings on this subject with Home Office Ministers and the DHSC and DfE Secretaries of State, Ministers do meet regularly to discuss matters of crime and safeguarding, with a dedicated VAWG Ministerial Steering Group taking place later this month.
The FMU is jointly funded by the Home Office and FCDO. It currently has six full time staff, two joint heads (one from each department) and four case workers. The Unit’s operating costs including staff time, outreach activity and casework are funded through the departmental budgets of its parent organisations.
Statistics on prosecutions and convictions for the new offence of arranging for a child to marry as part of the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Minimum Age) Act 2022 are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and are not currently available as the offence only came into force in February 2023. Statistics on the offence will be available in future publications of MoJ’s Criminal Justice System Statistics. The Government does not hold data on arrests or investigations for the offence. The FMU publishes annual statistics, including on the total number of cases per year, online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/forced-marriage-unit-statistics.