Local authorities can issue orders to protect vulnerable adults and children from being forced into marriage without seeking the leave of the court, under new powers introduced yesterday.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders can include orders to compel a person to hand over passports to prevent someone being taken abroad, orders to stop intimidation and violence, or orders to compel someone to reveal the whereabouts of another.

Failure to comply with an order could lead to imprisonment.

The powers were introduced in the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and came into force in November 2008. Since then 72 orders have been made.

Justice minister Bridget Prentice said: ‘We are cutting legal red tape so that local authorities are empowered to give vulnerable people the protection they need as fast as possible.

‘Forced Marriage Protection Orders are helping victims to tackle intimidation and threats of violence and abduction, sometimes from family members who are difficult to stand up against.

‘Forced marriage is a very personal threat. Voluntary organisations are showing us that the best support and advice has to be very personal too, which is why we are working closely with them to meet victims’ needs.’