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On 16 June 2014 it became a criminal offence to force another person to marry against their will, a crime punishable by up to seven years imprisonment. The new criminal offences will sit alongside the existing civil legislation, namely for forced marriage protection orders (FMPOs).
There is no requirement for a FMPO to be in place for the new criminal offences to be committed, however, where an FMPO is in place, further new legislation provides that breach of an FMPO is punishable by up to five years imprisonment provided that the perpetrator is aware that the FMPO has been made.
In the past few weeks there has been considerable debate on the question of whether the change is a good or a bad one. What will the fallout be?
The government’s view is that the criminalisation is a monumental step forward to tackling the issue. Home Secretary Theresa May said that the new legislation 'is a further move by this government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and the freedom to choose.' Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker is equally optimistic saying: 'Legislation is the next key step in solving this problem and builds on the hard work already being done by the government and third sector organisations to tackle this practice.'
It is not just the government backing its own decision, charities are pledging their support too: both Freedom and the NSPCC have publicly endorsed the changes in legislation.
However, there is a spectrum of viewpoints when it comes to support for the change. The Chief Executive of the NSPCC, Andrew Flanagan, qualified the NSPCC’s support, stating that while the NSPCC welcomes the change in legislation, care must be taken in its implementation. He has said 'The NSPCC has always had co
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