Can the Scottish Government bring forward its own legislation on forced marriage asks Justice Committee?


Can the Scottish Government bring forward its own legislation on forced marriage asks Justice Committee?

The Justice Committee is asking the Scottish Government to look again at whether it can introduce its own legislation on forced marriage.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which is being considered by the Westminster Parliament has direct implications for Scotland, including the creation of a specific offence of forced marriage in Scotland carrying a maximum seven year sentence. The Scottish Government is proposing that Westminster legislate on behalf of the Scottish Parliament in this and two other devolved areas to do with cross-border application of new sexual harm Prevention and Sexual Risk Orders and firearms offences.

The Justice Committee has today published a report on these proposals and the Scottish Parliament will have the opportunity to debate a Scottish Government motion on whether to give permission for Westminster to pass legislation in these devolved areas shortly. 

In a highly unusual move, the Justice Committee reports to the Scottish Parliament that it is unable to form a view on the aspect of forced marriage.

Whilst the Committee agrees that in order to ratify the Istanbul Convention* a specific offence of forced marriage is required in Scotland, it has concerns that legislation has been brought forward without consultation in Scotland. 

Convener of the Justice Committee, Christine Grahame said:

“The Committee heard in evidence how forced marriage is a complex and culturally sensitive issue and there is clearly not agreement from those people who deal with victims on the best way to tackle this dreadful practice.

“When organisations that assist victims of forced marriage are raising concerns that the proposals may stop victims from coming forward and seeking help, we think that it is time to pause and make sure that we get the right legislation for victims in Scotland.  If we have time to develop a specific Scottish response to forced marriage to reflect our distinct legal system, we should.

“The Committee has concerns about the Scottish Government’s approach and the lack of consultation in Scotland on the proposals. One way or the other, more work needs to be done in this area on how the proposals will work in practice and how victims’ interests will be taken into account.”

Next steps

The Scottish Government is expected to lodge a motion which will outline the provisions covering devolved matters in the Anti-social Crime and Policing Bill that it is asking the Scottish Parliament to consent to.  The motion will be subject to a vote by the Scottish Parliament.


The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is currently being considered at the Westminster Parliament and introduces a new criminal offence of forced marriage in England and Wales and an equivalent new criminal offence under the law in Scotland. The Bill makes it a criminal offence for a person to use violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into marriage without their free and full consent. 

The Scottish Government states that the provisions will ensure that it meets its international obligations under the council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) and ensure there is consistency in the legislation across the UK in respect of forced marriage.

Currently in Scotland there is no specific offence of forced marriage; however a breach of a forced marriage protection order is a criminal offence under the Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011. 

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