Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  Q60  Martin Salter: Judge Mornington, I see you nodding. Do you want to expand on that?

  District Judge Mornington: If people reach either the criminal courts or family courts as a society we have already failed them and the children. We need educative programmes at every level, from parenting to children at school, to information at school and the good work that is being done with little ones who are already damaged, to programmes in prisons for prisoners and general media programmes. I am desperately short of places where I can send entire families for holistic therapy. I do not want to separate families but bring them together at least for contact in a safe and positive way. That is what every judge in the country wants. We feel very hidebound by lack of resources.

  Q61  Mr Streeter: In your experience how much domestic violence is alcohol-related?

  District Judge Mornington: Alcohol and drugs are used as excuses and exacerbate domestic violence as do mental health and socio-economic problems. The reality is that domestic violence is about power and control and perpetrators will be violent whether they have been drinking, abuse drugs or whatever. Most of the families I see do not have one problem but a variety of them, particularly to do with mental health, all of which I have to address.

  Q62  Martin Salter: In terms of the work that both of you do, perhaps I may alert you to the fact that many of us in our constituency case work find ourselves dragged into the middle of totally intractable situations. The MP is occasionally prayed in aid in a war of attrition between one partner and another. I am sure I speak for all my colleagues when I say that these are some of the most uncomfortable situations.

  District Judge Mornington: You empathise with us!

  Q63  Martin Salter: We desperately seek an agency where we can refer this stuff.

  Lord Justice Wall: In my experience very few contact cases are about children; they are an ongoing power battle between parents. I utterly endorse what District Judge Mornington has said. At first instance I would like to say to people in front of me, "Look, you are in the wrong place." One of the great advantages of the Family Law Act 1996, which has been abandoned, is that before entering into divorce proceedings parties had to go to meetings at which they were given information about what they were letting themselves in for. Most parents simply do not realise that post-separation parenting is fantastically difficult. They think it is easy because they believe that when they separate it will solve the problem; it does not. I would like to see a programme whereby any couple, married or not—it does not matter, because most of the couples I deal with are not—before entering the legal process go to meetings and are given information about what they are letting themselves in for and the damage they are doing to their children.

  District Judge Mornington: I have been working with government for many years now and am sympathetic to resourcing issues. If we are to be properly resourced I am aware that these sorts of programmes will be very expensive. What I have been suggesting to ministers for some time is that perhaps we choose a pilot area, put resources into it and see what the need for those resources is, what the cost would be and what would be the results. It will be hugely expensive but it saves lives.

  Martin Salter: Chairman, it might be useful to invite an additional memorandum on the ideas that have been put forward.

  Q64  Chairman: That would be very appropriate, Mr Salter. May we have one?

  District Judge Mornington: Yes.

  Q65  Martin Salter: Judge Mornington, I want to ask about honour-based violent crimes. In your experience what makes it particularly hard to bring people to justice? What more can we collectively do—I include politicians—to encourage communities to break through the wall of silence that often surrounds these appalling incidents?

  District Judge Mornington: There has been a total lack of understanding of how deep the concepts of Izat and honour dictate the lives of many people in our communities, particularly those of south Asian backgrounds. It has nothing to do with religion. All agencies have been very wary of involving themselves because of their lack of understanding. That no longer holds sway. We now understand and there are people to teach us an understanding of those issues, but the barriers are up. There are issues of language, culture and immigration. We need a multi-agency risk assessment tool for all agencies on issues of forced marriage and honour-based violence and amend the present domestic violence protocols and have training programmes for all agencies who have experience of domestic violence to encompass these issues. We need education and key teachers in every school effectively to recognise and assist people who are likely to suffer this. We need national education programmes and we need to work within the communities through the Department of Communities and Local Government and DfES because the barriers are up. They feel attacked because of this, so it is necessary. I also work in Pakistan where the same work is being done. In many ways we have been funding better work there, particularly in Sindh province, than here over the past three years. We need a national strategy to identify the large number of pupils, particularly girls, missing from school registers and those who have been taken off the register and are said to be home schooled which leads to these issues. Airport staff and others staff need to be trained to recognise girls who are being taken out of the country. We are bringing three girls a week back from Islamabad as victims of forced marriage. We know that is the tip of the iceberg, but that is the failure end. It has to be part of education within the communities and the children themselves. It is a long-term strategy and it will not be easy to do it at the present time.

  Q66  Chairman: Where do you get the figure of three a week?

  District Judge Mornington: From the forced marriage unit.

  Q67  Chairman: They have told you that there are three a week?

  District Judge Mornington: There was a pan-European conference at the Foreign Office just before Christmas and people from Islamabad attended and provided those official statistics.

  Q68  Martin Salter: Judge Mornington, obviously you have worked out in embryo the action plan required. I and my colleagues are very keen to investigate this further, so anything you can do to help us highlight suggestions is welcome. There has been an inordinate amount of hand-wringing about the problem and a reluctance to move forward with programmes that are prepared to challenge things that are unacceptable and are held up as cultural norms. Anything you can do to help the Committee get underneath this issue would be welcome.

  District Judge Mornington: I think I found it a lot easier when working in Pakistan and seeing that they challenge things in the same way there. I have brought over from Pakistan speakers whom the communities respect. It has also helped me to get inside those communities. I am a Muslim and so I cannot be accused of Islamophobia. It is not easy. Ann Cryer is your expert and, sadly, she has just had an operation and cannot be here today. We can do it. It was said of domestic violence 20 years ago that it was intractable, that we would never be able to make advances and we should leave it well alone and it is a private matter. We have learnt so much. One of the great successes of this Government in the past 11 years has been the inter-ministerial group on domestic violence. That is an excellent example of good governance that we can now adapt to these issues.

  Q69  Chairman: Maybe in your memorandum, which is getting larger, you can stress to us what needs to be done.

  Lord Justice Wall: There is also a judicial protocol between English and Pakistani judges who have been talking to one another.

  Q70  Chairman: It is not just the Pakistani community; it goes wider than that.

  Lord Justice Wall: We have to deal with it on a nation-by-nation basis.

  District Judge Mornington: That is a real issue to be explored. I spoke to the head of the forced marriage unit last week when we were here. I cannot believe that in the Bengali community there is not a problem almost of the same size and yet it seems to be under the radar and the same numbers are not coming back.

  Q71  Chairman: What is key is engaging the communities and presumably as part of your action plan you will have that engagement.

  District Judge Mornington: Yes, and with women in the communities.

  Q72  Mr Davies: How do we know that those three girls a week are not voluntarily entering into arranged marriages?

  District Judge Mornington: You ask the forced marriage unit and hear their stories about how they have had to escape and the efforts they have had to make in Pakistan villages to contact the forced marriage unit to get out. When they come back they are completely isolated from their families, which is not a thing you say voluntarily.

  Q73  Mr Davies: If these people are escaping how many more are being put into forced marriages and we do not find out about?

  District Judge Mornington: Thousands.

  Q74  Mr Davies: Thousands of British girls every year?

  District Judge Mornington: Forced marriages that take place overseas as we know because of the numbers we bring back and forced marriages also take place in this country. I know that you are to hear from Jasvinda Sanghera and Karma Nirvana. They will tell you about it. I am also trustee of an Asian women's charity which is completely inundated with cases in this country. It is a huge problem.

  Q75  Chairman: Mr Davies raises a very important point. Let us be clear on the statistics because we are dealing with a relatively small community. You say that thousands come in on the basis of forced marriage?

  District Judge Mornington: No. I am saying that every year between the transnationals and those taking place here there are very large numbers of cases.

  Q76  Chairman: And only three are discovered?

  District Judge Mornington: No. Three come back every week just from one place.

  Q77  Chairman: So, 150 a year?

  District Judge Mornington: Come back from Pakistan, one country.

  Q78  Chairman: But thousands of cases occur?

  District Judge Mornington: Yes. They happen within Kurdish and Iraqi communities. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the new influx of Roma.

  Q79  Mr Davies: These are forced, not arranged, marriages?

  District Judge Mornington: Yes, forced.

  Chairman: It will be very helpful to have additional information on that. It was obviously a subject on which Ann Cryer was very keen to question you but unfortunately she is not able to be here.

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