New measures brought in relating to forced marriage and people with learning disabilities have been welcomed by the Ann Craft Trust (ACT), but the charity stresses that the growing number of victims with learning disabilities should not be forgotten.
ACT also welcomes the importance of both criminal and civil aspects to the act which afford victims of forced marriage a choice based on their need and circumstances.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill became an Act of Parliament in March 2014. Under the Act, forcing someone to marry and breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order will become criminal offences. The new offences take effect from June 16. The offences carry maximum penalties of seven years for committing a forced marriage offence and five years for breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
As a result, social workers, police and policy makers need to include the needs of people with learning disabilities when considering how the new legislation will impact upon their practice. Victims are now in a position to choose either the civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order or the criminal route. Although ACT noted that many people with learning disabilities will need support in order to make the right decision to meet their needs.
Deborah Kitson, ACT’s CEO, said: “Continued education, training and balanced media coverage will be crucial in both raising awareness and giving professionals the information and skills they require to properly safeguard those at risk.”
Having worked closely with ACT on a number of forced marriage projects the University of Nottingham’s Rachael Clawson, who has conducted research in this area, added: “The new legislation sends out a clear message that forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and will not be tolerated. It remains to be seen however how people with learning disabilities will be supported to make use of it.”