A mailbox set up to inform police of protection orders made against forced marriage and female genital mutilation was abandoned after a year due to a lack of resources, the Gazette has learned.
The central facility was introduced in 2018 to notify the police as early as possible when the courts made such orders. However, according to the latest published minutes of the Family Procedure Rule Committee, the mailbox is 'now not functioning because of police resources'.
Protection orders were introduced in 2008 for forced marriage and in 2015 for female genital mutilation (FGM). As at June 2019, 2,149 forced marriage and 418 FGM protection orders have been made.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) told the Gazette that the central mailbox received all FGM and forced marriage protection orders from every family court in England and Wales. The mailbox was run by two officers from Norfolk Constabulary, who collated a register and logged every order before sending it to the relevant force.
The Gazette was told that Norfolk's chief constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC lead for the violence and public protection portfolio, allowed staff from his Vulnerability Coordination Centre to operate the mailbox. However, the job was 'resource intensive' and borne by Norfolk Constabulary's own budget.
The committee minutes state that the Ministry of Justice is working on plans to notify the police as early as possible when forced marriage and FGM protection orders are made. Relevant groups are being surveyed for views on service of orders by the police.
For the time being, the mailbox sends an automatic out-of-office message informing users on what to do next. Applicants for protection orders can provide information to their local police force and regional representatives.
The NPCC spokesperson said: 'The Ministry of Justice has the responsibility for HM Courts & Tribunals Service and protection orders, and so police are working closely with them to agree new arrangements that will see a return to a staffed mailbox type function. We are pressing this issue on a regular basis with the MoJ as a quick resolution is vital.'