County roadshow raises awareness of ‘honour based violence’

Sussex Police, working with national charity Karma Nirvana, are aiming to raise awareness of the issues of honour based violence and forced marriage within the county.

A special ‘roadshow’, to be held in Sussex tomorrow (Tuesday October 16), is aimed at enabling police, other statutory agencies and the voluntary sector, to better recognise signs of such behaviour, and to develop strategies to respond to it.

Honour-based violence is a crime or incident committed by someone who percieves that it protects or defends the honour of a family or community.

The force already has a policy which provides guidance and direction to officers and staff, to help ensure that recording, risk assessment, risk management and investigation of such reports is carried out in a structured way.

And local partners are already aware of issues faced by victims of honour based violence and forced marriage, and have mechanisms in place to help protect individuals.

But honour based violence can affect the whole community and for this reason Sussex Police say they are committed to raising awareness of the issue and providing any support they can to victims, their families, and friends.

During the year ending March 2012 Sussex Police received 20 reports alleging honour based behaviour.

Nine of those reports were recorded as crimes and six of those cases have resulted in charges.

Already in three of those cases, each involving grievous bodily harm, convictions have resulted. The other 11 reports which were not recorded as crimes were referred to local charities with whom police worked to develop ongoing advice and support for the people involved.

The conference, being attended by 150 people, including expert police investigators, local authorities and charities, will examine the issue in much more detail.

As well as Sussex Police officers and staff there will be representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service, charities RISE, Worth and CRI, who specialise in providing support for victims, West and East Sussex County Councils, the National Health Service, and Gatwick Airport.

Detective Sergeant Hari Flanagan, the force’s lead for honour based violence issues, said; “This is a really complex and sensitive subject, affecting men and women, and we should be wary of drawing general conclusions from any individual cases. There is currently no evidence that Sussex has a specific problem, but no area in this country can assume that it is immune from such problems. This can affect any community, but in particular Gypsy, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Turkish, Kurdish, Afghani, African, Middle Eastern, Southern and Eastern European communities are most affected.

“Religion is not an excuse for violence of any type in the UK, and Sussex Police Adult and Child Protection Teams will do everything possible to support and protect victims of honour-based crime.

“This is a form of domestic abuse which we take very seriously, and will continue efforts to tackle it with partners, particularly those who support victims.”

“The conference is targeted at police and local agencies who deal with reports of vulnerable people from all communities and we are seeking to develop a consistent and joined-up approach.”

Karma Nirvana is a national organisation which supports victims of forced marriage and honour based violence. It runs the Honour Network Helpline which receives over 500 calls a months from both victims and professionals seeking advice and support. To date Karma Nirvana has hosted over 30 road shows throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The aim of these events is to increase awareness of honour based violence and forced marriage among the front-line professionals who come face-to-face with these issues.

After delivering 20 highly commended roadshows across the country in 2011 on the key theme of Forced Marriage Protection Orders, this year’s campaign centres on the repatriation of victims who have been forced into marriage overseas. Last year the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit rescued over 350 victims from overseas - this year’s roadshows provide the opportunity to get an insight into this vital service and focus on:

The work of the Forced Marriage Unit in the UK and overseas

The journey and experiences of victims who are repatriated both before and after coming back to the UK and how professionals can support them.

Guidance for professionals on how they can activate and assist with the repatriation process.

Jasvinder Sanghera, Chief Executive & Founder of Karma Nirvana comments: “We feel it is important to keep the momentum on this issue going and to bring the good work that is happening across the country to a platform. There are still high levels of under-reporting on this issue nationally and we need to raise the profile on this issue to ensure that more victims come forward to obtain the help they need.”

The roadshows are presented by Karma Nirvana team members and a survivor of forced marriage or honour based violence who will share his own experiences. People who would like more information on Karma Nirvana or require help, can make contact via their helpline: 0800 5 999247. Their website is www.karmanirvana.org.uk