Scottish Government back Westminster’s forced marriage legislation

CRIMINALISING forced marriage is “the right thing to do” and will keep Scotland in line with many other countries across the world, a Government minister said.

The Scottish Government is backing Westminster legislation which will make it a criminal offence for someone to use violence, threats or any other form of coercion to force another person into a marriage.

The offence will carry a maximum custodial sentence of seven years.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee is currently considering a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) which would allow provisions contained in Westminster’s Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, including the criminalisation of forced marriage, to apply in Scotland.

Currently there is no offence of forced marriage, however courts were given the power to issue protection orders to those at risk, which if breached could carry a two-year prison sentence, when the Scottish Parliament passed the Forced Marriage (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act in 2011.

Minister Shona Robison told the committee: “In June of 2012, the UK Government became a signatory to the Istanbul Convention. Article 37 requires forced marriage to be a criminal offence.

“We understand that the existing legislation in Scotland does not wholly meet the relevant article. Criminalising will ensure that Scotland can comply with the relevant article and that forced marriage legislation and protection is consistent across the UK.”

She added: “I believe very strongly, and the Scottish Government believes very strongly, that this the right thing to do. I think countries across Europe and across the world are looking at criminalising forced marriage.

“I don’t want Scotland to be in a weaker position, and be perceived to be in a weaker position than the many other countries across the world who are going down this particular route.”

MSPs raised concerns about the short timescale for criminalisation and the lack of public consultation in Scotland.

They also noted concerns from organisations such as Scottish Women’s Aid.

Committee member Margaret Mitchell said: “I think it’s strange that under our distinct Scottish system of criminal justice that we should be relying on the consultation in England.

“It seems to me that we shouldn’t be rushing this, it is more important to get it right.”

Committee member John Finnie said: “It does seem very speedy and without the consultation you would normally anticipate for something of that gravity.”

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