Honour based violence

There is no specific offence of 'honour based crime'. It is an umbrella term to encompass various offences covered by existing legislation. ‘Honour based violence‘ is a crime or incident which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and / or the community.”

Honour based violence (HBV) is a form of domestic abuse which is perpetrated in the name of so called ‘honour’. The honour code which it refers to is set at the discretion of male relatives and women who do not abide by the ‘rules’ are then punished for bringing shame on the family. Infringements may include a woman having a boyfriend; rejecting a forced marriage; pregnancy outside of marriage; interfaith relationships; seeking divorce, inappropriate dress or make-up and even kissing in a public place.

HBV can exist in any culture or community where males are in a position to establish and enforce women’s conduct, examples include: Turkish; Kurdish; Afghani; South Asian; African; Middle Eastern; South and Eastern European; Gypsy and the travelling community (this is not an exhaustive list).

Males can also be victims, sometimes as a consequence of a relationship which is deemed to be inappropriate, if they are gay, have a disability or if they have assisted a victim.  In addition, the Forced Marriage Unit have issued guidance on Forced Marriage and vulnerable adults due to an emerging trend of cases where such marriages involving people with learning difficulties.

This is not a crime which is perpetrated by men only, sometimes female relatives will support, incite or assist. It is also not unusual for younger relatives to be selected to undertake the abuse as a way to protect senior members of the family. Sometimes contract killers and bounty hunters will also be employed.

The Crown Prosecution Service has produced Guidance for Honour Based Violence & Forced Marriage

Why undertake a risk assessment?

Perhaps the most famous case of ‘honour’-based violence (HBV) in this country remains the 2008 murder of Banaz Mahmood. And that’s because Banaz’s case really stirred things up. It drove the police to overhaul their response and write the first national HBV policing policy. The major failing in the police response to Banaz’s request for help was that they did not understand the context and therefore the risk signs of HBV. Consequently, they thought that her assessment of the threat to her own life was “hysterical” and unfounded. Her brutal murder a few days later showed just how misguided this was.

A key aim of risk assessment is to identify the contexts of abuse and help understand the threats to the victim. It enables professionals to help the victim safety-plan, manage risks and access the right interventions. Risk tools such as the 24-question DASH-RIC (used by police and domestic abuse services in England and Wales) draw on research from previous cases, and what victims say, to develop a checklist of questions professionals can ask to assess risk.

SafeLives Insights data published as part of the current Spotlight on ‘honour’-based violence and forced marriage shows that HBV cases were more likely to score high-risk (68%) than non-HBV domestic abuse cases (55%).