Norfolk police chiefs back forced marriage message

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Police chiefs in Norfolk have welcomed the introduction of a new law, which came into effect this week, that makes forced marriage illegal.

The county’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, along with senior officers, have teamed up with the Freedom Charity, which is based in the county, to promote its Freedom2Choose campaign.

Mr Bett said: “Forced marriage removes a person’s fundamental right to free choice. It can lead to a life of slavery and abuse and today it will become a crime.

“I support the campaign because quite simply, everyone should have the right to choose.”

Police say that two cases of forced marriage, plus 11 others of potential forced marriage, were reported to police in Norfolk between May 2010 and May of this year,

But Det Supt Julie Wvendth, of the Norfolk force’s safeguarding unit, said: “We need to be mindful that Norfolk’s statistics do not paint an accurate picture.

“This is an under reported area of crime and we want to encourage victims to come forward and speak to us or the Freedom Charity.”

Aneeta Prem, the Freedom Charity’s founder, said the law, which criminalises forced marriage in England and Wales, was a landmark moment.

But she added: “Our challenge now is to make sure we help people understand what this means and the power it gives. We need to eradicate it for good. Everyone needs to understand that forced marriage is now a crime.”