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Police reveal rise in cases of honour-based violence

Cases of honour-based violence and forced marriage in Scotland are rising as a result of increased public awareness, according to police.

Speaking at a conference at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan, Clackmannanshire, Detective Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, the lead on public protection for Police Scotland, said there had been an increase in cases of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation across the country.

Honour-based violence often involves people who believe family members have brought shame on them by behaving in a way that contradicts their traditional beliefs, such as marrying someone from a different religion.

It mostly affects girls and women but can also affect male family members.

Figures show that in Edinburgh alone there have been 19 cases of honour-based violence and six of forced marriage dealt with by the police between January and November this year. Last year, in the full 12 months, there were 23 cases of honour-based violence and one of forced marriage.

Not all of these cases would have resulted in a report to the procurator fiscal but might have involved removing or relocating the adult or child at risk.

Figures also show police have dealt with nine of female genital mutilation (FGM) across Scotland this year, against none last year, following revelations in The Herald last month that families have brought their daughters to Scotland to undergo the practice because the country is seen as a "soft touch". Outlawed in the UK in 1985, the practice takes many forms but traditionally involves the full or partial removal of young girls' genitals.

There is increasing concern that these "hidden" crimes go unpunished.

In August, Mohammed Riaz Inayat, 56, was imprisoned for 22 years for murdering his wife and injuring his three daughters in an "honour" crime. He deliberately set fire to his house in Birmingham to stop his daughter from flying to Dubai to marry her boyfriend because he believed it would bring dishonour to the family.

Detective Chief Superintendent Imery said: "We are getting much better at recognising honour-based violence. We are seeing an increase in incidents being recorded as confidence in coming forward increases. Since the formation of Police Scotland our approach has significantly improved. Awareness is improving nationally and we are starting to get the messages out there.

"We are holding the conference because we want to improve Police Scotland's understanding of these issues. We want to enhance the understanding of not just police but all the agencies involved."

DCS Imery also called for a civil remedy for female genital mutilation - akin to the one on forced marriage that the Scottish Government is considering amending.

She added: "I think it would be a fantastic idea to have a preventative order for FGM. I think forced marriage protection orders are a good parallel. I would far rather prevent these things from happening than solely having a crime prosecuted."

Women's support agencies in Scotland say they have also seen a surge in the numbers of cases of forced marriage and honour-based violence since new legislation was introduced in 2011.

Since the law was introduced some support agencies have seen their referrals double. Scotland has had eight forced marriage prevention orders. However, the Scottish Government now plans to criminalise forced marriage, despite opposition from specialist support agencies who warn it will drive the practice underground because children do not want to criminalise parents.

Under the current legislation, courts in Scotland can issue protection orders that aim to prevent forced marriage.

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