Honour killings, Police and Crown Prosecution Service step up the offensive

Specific training for swift action to all police officers in London as CPS doubles its team of specialized prosecutors

02 October 2009. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that there are globally 5000 women killed each year in the name of honour.

Crown Prosecution Service reveals that in the UK alone up to 12 people are murdered annually to protect the honour of family or community.

Up to two such murders are believed to occur in London alone.

The vast majority of victims are women.

Honour crimes are acts of violence perpetrated against women for bringing perceived dishonour to their family or community. Women are held responsible for the reputation of the family and according to tribal tradition in many Islamic communities, mainly South Asian and Middle-Eastern, blood cleanses honour.

A young woman can be marked for death for simply falling in love with a wrong person or even for wearing a too casual Western attire.

Honour killings are just the pinnacle of human rights abuses against women.Rape, forced marriage, seclusion are other crimes of which these women are victims.

Figures about these crimes are underestimated as many incidents go unreported or do not get officially recorded as ‘honor crime’.

In 2007, the UK police were investigating the deaths and disappearances of over 100 women suspected of being honour crime victims.

In the first half of 2009 alone, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit – which deals with honour violence because of its frequent links to forced marriage – had received 2,000 calls.

The threefold increase of suicide rates among young Asian women has been attributed by the Crown Prosecution Service to the threat of honour killings.

In the UK, police have been accused of failing to protect honour crime victims from violence, forced marriage, rape and murder.

In some high profile cases, such as the murder of Banaz Mahmod in south London, the police came under fire for ignoring her cries for help in the months leading up to the killing.

In response, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have decided to step up in their offensive against honour killings in an attempt to bring more honor crime offenders to justice.

The CPS announced it will double its legal team tackling honour crimes in London from 10 to 20 specialist prosecutors.

Additional lawyers outside London will be provided depending on local needs.

Lynne Townley, crown advocate and senior legal advisor at the CPS, told Eastern Eye earlier last month: “This increase follows a successful nine-month pilot that ran in 2007. Honour killings have always been a priority crime for the CPS and these new plans mark a big push to train officials across a whole realm of government agencies.

“Our specialist lawyers can advise the police on matters that might not be an issue in other cases, like the need for specialist witness care and awareness of the victim’s cultural background.

“It has become apparent that a lot of existing witness protection schemes do not work in such cases because of family involvement.

“A witness or victim may not essentially want to be taken away from his or her entire family under a witness protection programme. Hence the need to deal with it on a case by case basis.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers has announced new guidance and specific training for all police officers in London, advising them to record more cases as being honor crimes, even if there is only a small amount of evidence. The hope is that victims will be protected more quickly, preventing them from further violence, forced marriage and any other fate their family might have planned for them.

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