A BEHIND-the-scenes television documentary is set to show Greater Manchester Police’s efforts in investigating forced marriages — and the success they are having even without a single prosecution.
The hour-long show — Forced Marriage Cops — came as a result of a film crew from Channel 4’s Despatches programme spending 18 months with officers from GMP as they tackled the issue in Bolton and across the region.
It follows the cases of young women who allege they are being bullied or were coerced into marrying men to whom they had been promised from an early age.
Viewers will hear the story of one survivor who talks about the domestic abuse and difficulties of her forced marriage and how she ultimately escaped the relationship.
Forcing someone into marriage became an offence last year and the programme shows how it is often tied to other related offences such as threats to kill and psychological abuse.
Det Insp Tanya Kitchen said: “Sometimes very little force or threats need to be used. Very often you are left with no other options and you have to go through with it.”
But victims are frequently reluctant to give witness statements knowing it may lead to their relatives being charged and brought before the courts.
They also fear being ostracised by their loved ones after “shaming” their family.
GMP has received about 250 reports of honour based abuse and forced marriage but is yet to secured a single conviction for forcing someone into marriage.
Det Insp Rick Collins, the force-wide tactical lead on forced marriage, said: “We would like a prosecution at the end of the day. However, we fully understand the pressure that the victims are under.
“The issue we have is quite often these victims will us tell their family lives are happy and it’s this one issue — forced marriage — that is a problem.
“It’s a huge step because they know if they take that forward they may never see their family again.”
Det Insp Collins added: “There are other ways if getting a successful result: if you manage to break the controlling behaviour or putting a forced marriage protection order in place.
“It’s not just the police — charities and social services can apply. Sometimes the potential victim doesn’t want the police involved but they do want help.
“I hope any potential victims look at the documentary and realise there is help available and support available and they will come forward.”
Forced marriage protection orders — granted by family courts on potential victims using a lower evidence threshold than criminal charges — can forbid elders from taking children abroad among a whole raft of preventative measures.
Since 2014 breaching an order has been a criminal offence and every frontline officer has been given training to help identify where honour-based offences may be being committed such as missing person inquiries or cases of domestic violence.
Most of the victims and perpetrators hail from South Asian backgrounds, police said.
Mr Collins added: “There is a huge piece of work going on at the moment trying to assess what the true scale of forced marriage is. It’s very difficult to record because it’s hidden.”
Forced Marriage Cops is on Channel 4 at 10pm on Wednesday.