A government inspection of the police’s response to ‘honour-based’ violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation has highlighted limited legal understanding within some police forces.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s report, The depths of dishonour: hidden voices and shameful crime, provides for the first time information and analysis for the public about how police forces respond to, investigate and protect victims of such crimes.

HMIC said the internal legal services departments of some forces had only a ‘limited’ understanding of legal measures available, such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation protection orders.

‘We are concerned that some victims were not aware that it was possible for a prosecution to be brought without their cooperation in some cases,’ the report states.

The eight forces HMIC inspected had joint protocols in place with the Crown Prosecution Service to support FGM investigation and prosecution.

Most forces had an agreement in place with the CPS to provide access to specialist lawyers. In those forces without a protocol, there was a reliance on protocols used to prosecute domestic abuse cases.

A few forces had protocols in relation to the investigation and prosecution of ‘honour-based’ violence, ‘although in the main this was included as part of a protocol for domestic abuse’.

Most ‘were aware that these were not necessarily appropriate’, HMIC said.    

Even where protocols were in place, staff reported that it was not always possible to secure timely advice from a specialist lawyer. 

‘Officers did not always consider involving internal police legal services in a timely way as part of their approach to safeguarding a victim,’ HMIC said.

‘In several forces we found that these legal services teams were not aware of agreed protocols and that they had a limited understanding of preventative legislation.’

HMIC recommended the Home Office initiate a review of the existing legislative framework for all forms of ‘honour-based’ violence. New legislation could provide appropriate protection orders and a legislative scheme setting out the responsibilities in relation to those orders on relevant public services.