Leading “honour” based violence charity welcomes HMIC report which identifies needs for major improvements by police

On Tuesday 8th December 2015, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published the findings of their “Honour” Based Violence Inspection. We, the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), a leading “honour” based violence charity, which last year received 2,500 calls from women, girls and professionals and provided intensive support in 800 cases, welcome the findings of the report, which identifies that a number of major improvements must be made to policing of “honour” based violence to ensure that victims and survivors are protected and “honour” killings are prevented.

IKWRO played a leading role in campaigning for the establishment of this much needed HMIC inspection, which assessed “honour” based violence policing across England and Wales and is the first of its kind. IKWRO has worked closely with HMIC from the outset and throughout the process as a member of the Expert Reference Group and participated in the in-force inspections.

Diana Nammi, IKWRO’s Founder and Executive Director said:

There are significant holes in policing of “honour” based violence; currently the police are failing to provide a comprehensive safety net. The importance of HMIC’s investigation to progressing our battle to safeguard women and girls from “honour” based violence should not be underestimated. This is a crucial milestone.

Fighting for improvements in policing of “honour” based violence is at the core of IKWRO’s work; I founded IKWRO in 2002 in direct response to complete failure by the police understand or even respond when I reported the “honour” killing of my own interpreter, just a few years earlier in 1996. Ten years after that, in 2006, IKWRO’s Justice for Banaz campaign highlighted dire failures by the police to protect Banaz Mahmod, a 20 year old British-Kurdish woman, murdered in an “honour” killing after seeking help from the police five times. Banaz even wrote down for the police the names of the men who went on to gang-rape and murder her. Further to IKWRO’s campaign, Banaz’s murder was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and this HMIC report assesses progress since then and states; ‘nearly ten years later, our inspection has found pockets of good practice, but overall, our conclusions have many echoes of the IPCC’s observations.’

This is very disappointing but unfortunately not surprising to IKWRO. Fundamental change is needed immediately across the police to protect women and girls at risk of “honour” based violence, a serious, organised crime, often involving multiple perpetrators.

There is no time to waste, there is a one chance rule; one mistake can literally cost a woman’s life. However, as HMIC has found, the police are falling short right across the victim’s/ survivor’s journey, with failures in understanding “honour” based violence, identifying risk and safeguarding victims and survivors, which all reduce confidence and the likelihood of a woman coming back to them again when she is in danger. This is unacceptable. Women must be able to trust that they will get the protection they need the very first time and every time that they seek help.

Rightly, HMIC highlights that “honour” based violence happens in every single police force and in HMIC’s words ‘no force in England and Wales can afford to say ‘it doesn’t happen here.’ However, in line with IKWRO’s experiences, supporting thousands of women and girls, HMIC has identified that there is significant variation in how well prepared police forces are to protect people from “honour” based violence across England and Wales. This must change. A woman’s safety must not be a post-code lottery.

IKWRO have long been concerned about lack of national police leadership and strategy on “honour” based violence. We need a national strategy to tackle “honour” based violence but the latest strategy, from 2008 was due for review in 2010 and that never happened. Strong leadership is crucial to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of HMIC’s investigation. We welcome HMIC’s recommendation that the Home Office step in and establish a national oversight framework to monitor and report on progress made on the findings and recommendations of the investigation. As “honour” based violence experts, it is essential that IKWRO is invited to be involved in this process.

We are delighted that HMIC also recognises that there are holes in the legal framework, including the absence of sentencing guidelines. The whole legal system around “honour” based violence needs review.

Regarding practical failures, HMIC echo warnings from IKWRO’s report ‘Postcode lottery: police recording of ‘honour’ based violence’ that a number of police forces are failing to flag (label) cases. This results in a number of dangers, including preventing the scale of the problem from being measured, both locally and nationally, which results in under-resourcing, as well the risk that other police officers involved in the case will fail to identify the “honour” element, not act appropriately and endanger the victim, for example by negotiating with their family or community. Failing to flag also undermines risk profiling and risk management. Given the multiple, dangerous implications of failing to flag, this must be addressed without delay across all forces.

Another worry has been that when protection orders are issued by courts often the police don’t even know about them, so how can they act on them and keep women safe? This must be addressed immediately to prevent police protection that has been ordered by the courts from falling short in practice.

The police play a crucial part in safeguarding women and girls from “honour” based violence but other agencies also have crucial roles to play. It is vital that the government now initiates similar investigations into how social services, health, housing and education are tackling “honour” based violence.

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