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PCC and Police in Avon and Somerset supporting victims of honour crimes and forced marriage

Forced-marriage-1

Honouring the memories of men and women affected by so-called “honour” killings is the subject of a National Day of Remembrance held today, July 14, and is being supported by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens and Avon and Somerset Police.

Set up by the charity Karma Nirvana last year following the death of Shafilea Ahmed in 2003, the Remembrance Day also falls during a week that marks the beginning of this year’s awareness campaign on forced marriage led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The campaign targets the summer period when families use the opportunity to take individuals overseas for marriage.

Across Avon and Somerset, Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care teams work closely with victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage to provide them with support to cope and recover from their experience. Lighthouse was set up jointly by the PCC and Avon and Somerset Police and sees teams of staff from the police and victim support organisations working together to guide, advise and support victims and witnesses from the initial reporting of a crime and throughout the criminal justice process.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “We must use every opportunity we can to raise awareness of honour-based abuse and forced marriage. These are particularly difficult crimes to tackle as they tend to happen behind closed doors and victims are terrified to come forward and speak out.

“If you are or have been a victim of forced marriage or honour-based abuse I want you to know that there are people who can help you. You will be believed and taken seriously if you decide to come forward. We all have the right to freedom of choice and these crimes and actions are completely unacceptable.”

Chief Inspector Marie Wright, force lead for honour-based crimes, said: “Victims of honour based abuse are often most at risk from those closest to them - their families and relatives. In Avon and Somerset we place the victim at the heart of our response and work to ensure that anyone affected by these crimes is offered enhanced support from our Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care programme.

“There is no honour in crimes which cause suffering and undermine fundamental human rights and in tackling this issue, we are committed to working with affected communities and our partners across health, education, social care and the voluntary sector.

“I hope that our messageshighlighted by today’s awareness day helps to further give victims and survivors the confidence to come forward and report these crimes to us.”

Here are two examples of recent cases where Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care teams have provided support to victims:

Example 1 - “In one case, a victim was suffering horrendous assaults, emotional abuse and immigration threats from her family. Using an interpreter, we were able to provide reassurance and agree ways for the victim and the Lighthouse Victim Care Officer to communicate safely. It soon became apparent that the victim was in fear for her life, so the case was quickly raised to what we call ‘high risk’, ensuring safeguarding measures were put into place. Building a good rapport with the victim, the Lighthouse Victim Care Officer was able to provide support and offer advice during the police investigation. In this case, the victim was supported in moving to a safe refuge outside of the Avon and Somerset force area. As with all cases, details were kept confidential and the victim would only need to speak with their designated Lighthouse Victim Care Officer.”

Example 2 - “Through the support of a Lighthouse Victim Care Officer, an honour-based abuse victim has felt able to complete a victim personal statement – something that allows victims to say in their own words how the incident has affected them and can be read out in court. Following a referral from the Lighthouse programme, the victim is also now speaking with a local organisation that provides support in relation to housing and other practical arrangements – the victim will continue to receive this support long term, after the criminal justice process has finished.”

You can find out more about Lighthouse and the services they can provide at www.lighthousevictimcare.org

Anyone with information related to an honour-based crime is asked to report it either by calling 999 in an emergency or 101 in a non-emergency. If contacting the police online is the safest way for you to get in touch, you can complete an online reporting form

Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously online or via 0800 555111.

To find out more about Karma Nirvana visit www.karmanirvana.org.uk.

Posted on Thursday 14th July 2016
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