Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner has today pledged to back a new initiative aimed at tackling what he described as the ‘misery and suffering’ caused by so-called honour-based violence and forced marriages.
Barry Coppinger, speaking at the launch of the HALO Project held in Middlesbrough, stressed that, as well as providing support to victims, it was crucial that the police and other agencies had the expertise to develop their services.
Led by Tees Valley Inclusion and backed by a wide range of partners, the HALO project aims to provide a focal point of contact which can deal sensitively and confidentially with victims, as well as providing guidance for agencies on how they can meet their needs effectively.
Mr Coppinger, who has made a better deal for victims as one of his top priorities, described it as pioneering initiative as far the region was concerned and came an important time given the Government has recently repeated its intention to criminalise force marriages.
He pointed out that, whilst statistics were hard to come by, a recent study had suggested that nationally around 3,000 cases of honour-based violence are reported to the police and the joint Foreign office-Home Office Forced Marriages Unit gave advice in almost 1,500 cases with the oldest victim being 87 and the youngest just five.
Added the Commissioner “It is striking that of those near 1,500 cases just one per cent were in the North East—the lowest regional figure across England, Scotland and Wales. Does that mean that it is less of a problem here…or does it mean that we need to redouble our efforts to support victims and encourage them to come forward?
“I suspect the answer is the latter which is why I see the HALO project as so vital. I believe it can provide the police and the other agencies who must be involved with the advice and expertise which can enable us to develop and deliver services focussed on helping victims and understanding the cultural pressures they often face.
“Above all we need to make clear to victims—and those who might fear becoming victims—that they have the same human rights as every other citizen…the right, in the words of the Home Secretary ‘to make their own choice about their relationships and their future.’”
Picture Caption: Launching the HALO project—Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger (left) with Yasmin Khan, Vela Equality and Diversity Manager, Chaz Akoshile, Joint Head of the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, Cleveland Temporary Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer, and Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West area.
Posted on Thursday 29th November 2012