DORSET’S Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has backed new legislation that will make forced marriage a crime in England and Wales.

Forced marriage becomes a crime from today and Dorset Police are encouraging those who believe themselves to be victims to come forward.

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not or, in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used.

Victims include people thought to be at potential risk of future forced marriage, those currently going through a forced marriage and those who have already been forced to marry.

Mr Underhill said: “I welcome this new legislation and the need for Dorset Police to be aware of this issue. Research has shown that forced marriage can be a particular issue in areas with a low ethnic diversity such as Dorset, due to lack of knowledge among professionals.”

Dorset Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staff recently took part in a seminar to make them aware of the issues involved.

“This reassures me that should this crime come to light anywhere in the county it will be dealt with quickly and sensitively, said Mr Underhill.”

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical, including threats, physical and sexual violence, or emotional and psychological.

Financial abuse can also be a factor, which can include taking your wages or not giving you any money.

Police Sergeant Neil Wright, of Bournemouth CID, said: “Forced marriage is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men.

“If you are being forced into a marriage without consent, believe you are at risk of being taken overseas and being forced to marry, or you know someone who is – come forward and contact Dorset Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“We have officers trained to support victims and investigate these types of offences.

“If you don’t feel able to speak to the police then advice is also available from the Forced Marriage Unit or independent charity Karma Nirvana.”