A forced marriage is now caught section 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 that establishes that a person commits an offence if he or she uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a marriage, and believes, or ought reasonably to believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent.
It happens often with new laws that no matter how hard the draughtsman might try, the pressure from the politicians to have a particular law created cannot be produced in a way that makes the law simple to police. This may turn out to be one of those cases. We may find that prosecutions come about due to dissatisfaction with arranged marriages rather than a forced marriage. Differentiating might prove very difficult.
If a victim lacks capacity to consent to marriage, the offence is capable of being committed by any conduct carried out for the purpose of causing the victim to enter into a marriage (whether or not the conduct amounts to violence, threats or any other form coercion). This will protect the young and those with lack of capacity due to a mental disability. It is possible that some people may be charged under this provision in surprising ways. We need to see how this develops.
A person commits an offence if he or she practises any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the United Kingdom, and intends the other person to be subjected to conduct outside the United Kingdom that is an offence under this section or would be an offence under this section if the victim were in England or Wales.
If convicted of an offence of forced marriage a person can face imprisonment for up to 7 years if dealt with in the Crown Court.
There are jurisdictional issues that will need to be carefully considered in many cases. Such matters should be considered at the earliest opportunity and certainly before the case gets to Court and a plea is requested.