CPS ‘afraid to tackle honour crimes for fear of causing unrest in Asian communities’
Det Sgt Palbinder Singh rwith MetCommissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe at the Metropolitan Police Service Domestic Abuse Achievement Awards 2015
Hannah Summers, Camilla Turner
7 November 2016 • 10:00pm
The Crown Prosecution Service is failing to prosecute honour crimes for fear of causing “unrest” in Asian communities, a Scotland Yard whistleblower has alleged.
Det Sgt Pal Singh disclosed that “apathy” by prosecutors led to the collapse of what could have been the first conviction for forced marriage in England.
He said that the CPS dropped the case despite pleas from the police that “a forced marriage trial would send a strong message to the community”.
Det Sgt Singh has been commended three times by the force for his work in the area over the past year.
It is extremely unusual for a serving police officer to publicly attack the CPS, which is facing an unprecedented wave of criticism over its prosecutions in child sex abuse cases, rape inquiries and a string of failed prosecutions against journalists.
Jasvinder Sanghera, director of Karma Nirvana
But Det Sgt Singh says he is speaking out now because he is witnessing what he perceives to be serious miscarriages of justice – despite figures showing that the number of forced marriage cases being referred to the CPS by the police has doubled in the past five years.
“The way I see it is that victims are being denied justice,” he said. “It is in the public interest that I speak out.”
He added: “There appears to be an apathy from the CPS when prosecuting cases where Asian women are victims of honour-based violence. A conviction could lead to unrest in the affected community but if they discontinue a case they know most victims won’t complain due to their vulnerability.”
His comments were welcomed by charities which said that it was “appalling” that the CPS was failing in honour crime investigations.
A law making forced marriage an offence was introduced in 2014.
Det Sgt Singh spoke out after a case involving a young women whose brother and parents were charged with assault, false imprisonment and using violence to coerce a forced marriage.
Det SgtPal Singh honoured at the Police Federation’s National Detective Awards, October 2016, for his work in securing the UK’s first conviction for ‘Domestic Servitude’ in the UK
The 27-year-old victim from south London alerted police after her family attacked her because she resisted their attempts to compel her to marry a partner of their choice because she was already in a relationship.
She told police that she had no option but to leave her family for fear they would look for her partner and “physically assault him too”.
Her account was corroborated by an independent witness outside the family home, said Det Sgt Singh. But the case was dropped.
He raised concerns when the lawyer presiding over the case attempted to remove the forced marriage charge.
The CPS later wrote to Det Sgt Singh apologising , saying: “I accept the our service could have been better. In particular we have made a decision to drop the forced marriage charge and did not consult with you. I apologise for this.”
They said they would proceed instead with charges of false imprisonment and common assault.
There appears to be an apathy from the CPS when prosecuting cases where Asian women are victims of honour-based violence.
Detective Inspector Palbinder Singh
Prosecutors later indicated they would seek to “offer no evidence” because police had been unable to locate the victim – even though Det Sgt Singh wrote to the CPS to confirm that she had agreed to attend court. Prosecutors claimed they had already dropped the case before they saw his message.
The CPS lawyer listed the case at court without informing the police and offered no evidence, causing it to be dismissed.
A spokesman for the CPS said: “As the police have no authority to intervene in a prosecutor’s decision to offer no evidence there would have been no particular reason for the CPS to inform the police of the decision after no evidence had been offered.”
Had the case led to a conviction it would have been the first successful prosecution of its kind in England. The only successful prosecution under the new law was a case in Cardiff in June 2015.
Jasvinder Sanghera, director of Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports victims of forced marriage, said the details of the case were “appalling”. She added: “It pains me to hear the officer has done all the right things only for it to be pushed back.”
Last year Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary published a report into the police response to honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
It found that only three of the country’s 43 police forces were prepared to tackle honour-based violence.
Det Sgt Palbinder Singh receiving award from Commander Mak Chishty, the Met’s lead on honour based violence, for his work helping vulnerable communities, July 2016.
According to data released in September the number of forced marriage cases referred to the CPS by the police has risen by 10 per cent in a year. Figures for 2015-2016 show that the number of cases referred to the CPS by police has nearly doubled in five years from 46 to 90.
However police believe this does not show the true picture as many more crimes will not be reported to police due to fear of victims involving police in family disputes.
The CPS said all cases are dealt with in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
A CPS spokesman said: “These crimes are among the most complex referred to the CPS by police and, as recent statistics show, all agencies involved have major challenges to overcome.
“We recognise that it can be very difficult for victims to come forward, report these crimes and maintain their support during a prosecution, due to the nature of the offences.
“Victims will often be reluctant to criminalise their families, and can feel isolated. The CPS recognises that honour-based violence and forced marriage are fields in which we need to improve our understanding, response and support to victims.
“We have recently launched a new Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage Action Plan, which outlines the comprehensive steps we are taking to improve our performance in this area.”