There are calls for Hampshire Police to improve its understanding of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
A new report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found the force is not yet prepared to protect people from HBV due to underdeveloped awareness and understanding of the issue as well as enforcement and prevention methods.
In England and Wales only three police forces were deemed prepared to handle the often complex issues.
Not Sufficiently Prepared
Honour-based violence is the term used to refer to a collection of practices used predominantly to control the behaviour of women and girls within families or other social groups in order to protect supposed cultural and religious beliefs, values and social norms in the name of ‘honour’. This is the first inspection by HMIC of the police service of England and Wales to focus on honour-based violence.
The report, ‘The depths of dishonour: Hidden voices and shameful crimes’, examines the approach of police forces in England and Wales in relation to the protection of people from harm caused by honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and at supporting victims of these offences.
Inspectors found that the police are not sufficiently prepared to protect effectively victims of honour-based violence, including forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Despite there being pockets of good practice, a lot needs to improve. The service provided to victims must improve, given that they face unique difficulties in reporting such incidents and crimes. Forces must also improve engagement with community groups that support the interests of victims, in order to understand better the complexities cases of honour-based violence can pose, which will give victims and those affected the confidence to come forward.
The report found that there are well trained and experienced officers who can identify and protect victims at an early stage; however, they are spread thinly. Some forces approach cases of honour-based violence by adapting existing domestic abuse and child protection procedures. While there are similarities, this approach doesn’t take into account the specific challenges cases of honour-based violence pose. The police service must ensure officers are properly trained to identify cases of honour-based violence, and understand the appropriate approach to take.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: "Honour-based violence is being suffered on a daily basis by blameless citizens across all areas and communities. The immense emotional difficulty victims have in reporting the crimes they have suffered mean that victims are acutely and continually vulnerable.
"Although initial responses by the police are good, only a small number of forces are well-prepared for the complexity that honour-based violence cases can pose. It is clear that the police service has some way to go before the public can be confident that honour-based violence is properly understood by the police, and that potential and actual victims are adequately and effectively protected.
"The first response victims receive is the most important, and the courage they have shown to contact the police must not be undone by forces being ill-prepared. Raising levels of awareness will improve the response to honour-based violence and the confidence of potential victims to report incidents and crimes to the police. That, in turn, will go a significant way towards addressing the unreported nature of these offences."
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said: "This report is one of the most important ever produced by HMIC, as these are crimes of unique seriousness, involving a degree of vulnerability which is absent in almost every other case, with the exception of the abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation of children.
"The vulnerability of victims and potential victims of these crimes comes principally from their sense of helplessness and hopelessness, their fear or conviction that their circumstances are not or will not be understood, and the fact that the people closest to them are the people who are most dangerous to them."