Teachers could face criminal charges for failing to report forced marriage

Consultation over plans to create a mandatory reporting duty for teachers, doctors, nurses and social workers

Teachers could face criminal charges for not reporting forced marriage concerns

Teachers could face criminal charges for failing to report forced marriage cases under plans being considered by the government.

Ministers are weighing up the possibility of introducing a mandatory reporting duty, which would also apply to doctors and nurses, to boost efforts to tackle the "hidden crime".

A Home Office consultation paper published today seeks views on whether such a measure should be introduced, and if so, who it should apply to.

Teachers, doctors, nurses, social care professionals and voluntary sector workers are among those who could be covered by any duty.

The document also set out possible options for the consequences of failing to comply with the requirement.

One approach would be for such cases to be considered by the relevant professional regulator or employer, with actions ranging from a warning to dismissal or barring.

An alternative option would be for failure to comply to be made a criminal offence.

The Home Office document said: "This would ensure that any instance of failure to comply with the duty was dealt with robustly, however it may also risk a disproportionate response where, for example, a more appropriate course of action is re-training."

The consultation is also looking at measures to strengthen existing statutory guidance for professionals.

Forcing someone to marry against their will is a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

A forced marriage is defined as one in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and violence, threats or any other form of coercion is involved.

Launching the consultation, the home secretary Sajid Javid said forced marriage "remains a hidden crime", adding: "Victims may stay silent, fearing isolation or worse from their family and/or community.

"That is why the role of frontline professionals in health, education and social care, who may come across signs of forced marriage is so crucial."

Earlier this year Tes reported on how a Leeds school was tackling forced marriage by advising pupils to put a spoon in their underwear if they fear being taken abroad against their will during the summer holidays.

Pupils at the Co-op Academy in Leeds were told that the spoon will trigger airport metal detectors and result in them being taken for a search, thus allowing them to raise the alarm safely and in private.

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