More training for police on forced marriages and ‘honour’ crimes

Surrey’s Police & Crime Commissioner, David Munro (credit: Surrey County Council)
 By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter, 11 November 2019

Police officers are being trained to help victims of forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour-based abuse crimes, a meeting heard.

The move is part of Surrey Police’s latest plan to tackle violence against women and girls in the county.

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro said although honour-based crimes are not high in Surrey he welcomed the move to crackdown on “harmful traditional practices” as he knows “it is going on”.

There are nine forced marriage protection orders in place and two more for women who have now moved out of county, meeting papers showed.

Reporting of harmful traditional practices (HTP), forced marriage (FB) and honour-based violence (HBV) has increased in Surrey, which chief constable Gavin Stephens suggested they were getting better at dealing with the crimes.

There were 16 HTP crimes recorded between April and September 2019 compared to 10 recorded between October 2018 and March 2019.

And there were 15 HBV/forced marriage crimes recorded between April and September 2019 compared to 10 between October 2018 and March 2019.

And in a bid to better help victims 40 officers have been trained to be guide and advise officers and staff when investigating crimes such as forced marriage and FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and more will be trained in April 2020.

The force is also working with charities such as True Honour and Karma Nirvana who have helped deliver the training.

A report on how Surrey Police is tackling violence against women and girls was presented to the PCC’s performance meeting on Wednesday, November 6.

Mr Munro said: “We recognise it much more and are taking more action to prevent it.

“This is the latest in a number of attempts to actually crack down on harmful traditional practices.

“I do hope this new effort succeeds. It needs to. We know it’s going on.”

The report also highlighted more work the force has been doing to tackle high levels of rape and serious sexual offences in the county.

The number of reports relating to serious sexual offences have increased in the last two years, it said, with 106 more reports of rape against females recorded in 2018/19 compared to the previous year.

Figures in the report show there were 894 serious sexual assault crimes recorded between April and September 2019 – a drop from 909 between October 2018 and March 2019.

But only a fraction of those reported have received a positive outcome – such as a conviction or court date.

Officers have been working with university students in a bid to target the “most vulnerable” including those who could be “potential perpetrators” and talking to them about “healthy relationships”, chief constable Gavin Stephens said.

He told the meeting: “We try and choose opportunities when people are most vulnerable. So, for example, university students who are moving away from home for the first time, dealing with a new area to live in and forming new relationships.

“So we are working with new students. Targeting potential perpetrators as well – being clear about the issue of consent.”

A report to the PCC in August highlighted a backlog of child rape and sexual offences being investigated by Surrey Police had reached “significant” levels.