It is a criminal offence in England and Wales to force someone to marry. The maximum penalty for an offence is 7 years’ imprisonment.
- broad subject: crime and disorder
- sub category: crime and disorder legislation
- implementation date: 16 June 2014
- from: Crime and Policing Group – Violent Crime Unit
- for more information contact: Hannah Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chaz Akoshile at email@example.com
- addressed to: Chief Constables England and Wales; Association of Magisterial Officers; Justice Clerks Society; Magistrates Association; Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales; presiding judges; High Court judges; Crown Court judges; resident judges; district judges (Magistrates’ Courts); Ministry of Justice; police and crime commissioners; Chief of Probation; chief crown prosecutors; CPS; youth offending teams; Association of Chief Police Officers; College of Policing; Local Government Association; Chief Executives of Local Authorities; Association of Directors of Children’s Services; local safeguarding children boards
Following a public consultation, the Prime Minister announced on 8 June 2012 that the government intended to make forcing someone to marry a criminal offence in England and Wales; and to strengthen the civil law in England and Wales by making the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order a criminal offence.
These proposals were part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, which received royal assent on 13 March 2014 (the 2014 Act).
The new offences come into force on 16 June 2014.
Section 121 of the 2014 Act provides that:
A person commits an offence in England and Wales if he or she:
(a) uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into the marriage, and
(b) believes, or ought to reasonably believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent
In relation to a victim who lacks capacity to consent to marriage, the offence under subs.(1) is capable of being committed by any conduct carried out for the purpose of causing the victim to enter into a marriage (whether or not the conduct amounts to violence, threats or any other form of coercion).
A person commits an offence under the law of England and Wales if he or she practices any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the United Kingdom, and intends the other person to be subjected to conduct outside the UK that is an offence under subs.(1) or would be an offence under that subsection if the victim were in England and Wales.
The maximum penalty for the forced marriage offences is 7 years’ imprisonment in a criminal court.
Forced marriage protection orders
Forced marriage protection orders can be sought under s.4A of the Family Law Act 1996 (the 1996 Act). Note: section 4a of the 1996 Act was inserted by the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.
The 1996 Act makes provision for protecting both children and adults at risk of being forced into marriage and offers protection for those who have already been forced into marriage. The terms of orders issued under the 1996 Act can be tailored to meet the specific needs of victims.
Under s.120 of the 2014 Act, the maximum penalty for breach of a forced marriage protection order is five years imprisonment.
In light of the new legislation, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit has updated:
the statutory guidance, ‘The Right to Choose’ issued under s.63 Q(1) Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007
The FMU is always happy to talk to frontline professional handling cases of forced marriage at any stage in a case.
The FMU offers further information and advice on the wide range of tools available to tackle forced marriage, including legal remedies, overseas assistance and how to approach victims.
FMU staff can also speak at conferences or run training workshops to teams of frontline practitioners, and provide free leaflets and posters.
Call: 020 7008 0151 (Monday to Friday: 09.00 to 17.00)