So-called honour-based violence

Honour-based violence (HBV) is the term used to refer to a collection of practices used predominantly to control the behaviour of women and girls within families or other social groups in order to protect supposed cultural and religious beliefs, values and social norms in the name of ‘honour’. HBV incidents and crimes include specific types of offence, such as forced marriage (FM) and female genital mutilation (FGM), and acts which have long been criminalised, such as assault, rape and murder. We use HBV to refer to the full range of incidents and crimes which perpetrators carry out under the guise of maintaining or protecting perceived ‘honour’.

In 2015, HMIC carried out an inspection of the police response to HBV. This inspection was a continuation of our work to examine the effectiveness of the police response to protecting vulnerable people.

Inspectors found that the police are not sufficiently prepared to protect effectively victims of HBV. We found pockets of good practice, but a lot needs to improve. The service provided to victims must get better, given that they face unique difficulties in reporting such incidents and crimes. Forces must also improve engagement with community groups that support the interests of victims, in order to understand better the complexities cases of HBV can pose, which will give victims and those affected the confidence to come forward.

Get the report

The depths of dishonour: Hidden voices and shameful crimes

About the inspection

Until this inspection there had been no independent scrutiny of HBV by inspectorates. Although awareness is growing, research indicates that these important issues remain largely under the radar of most agencies, including the police.

HMIC established a diverse expert reference group, to seek the perspective of people who have an in-depth knowledge of these issues, and an active involvement with the victims. The membership of the expert reference group includes partnership organisations from the criminal justice and voluntary sector.

Inspection aims

The aims of this inspection were:

  • to report on the effectiveness of the police approach to identify, respond to and protect people at risk of harm from HBV;
  • to report on the effectiveness of the police approach to prevent HBV;
  • to highlight and promote effective practice in the police response to HBV; and
  • to make recommendations to advance improvements in policing practice in relation to HBV.

Inspection scope

The inspection covered all police forces in England and Wales. It complements, but doesn’t replicate, work carried out during other vulnerability-related inspections, for example, domestic abuse and child protection.

The inspection took place in two phases.

In Phase 1, all 43 police forces in England and Wales completed a self-assessment of their preparedness to protect and support victims of HBV. At the same time, we completed a review of relevant documents and data provided by forces, and an analysis of information available to the public through force and police and crime commissioner websites. This phase of the inspection was designed to provide a point of comparison to inform activity in both police forces and inspection in future years.

In Phase 2, we conducted fieldwork in eight police forces, during which we interviewed senior and operational lead officers, and held focus groups with frontline officers, staff and partners. We carried out unannounced visits to police stations to test the reality of forces’ stated approaches to responding to HBV. Inspection teams included individuals from a number of voluntary sector organisations which support victims of HBV.

The eight forces were chosen because they were outliers in Phase 1, and/or represented a mix of rural and urban policing environments, with different population profiles. Those forces were Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Dyfed-Powys, Hertfordshire, Metropolitan Police Service, Northumbria, Thames Valley, and West Midlands.

Further information

If you have been affected by any of these issues, these organisations can help:

BAWSO – (Advice and Support for Black & Minority Ethnic people in Wales) – Helpline: 0800 731 8147

The Dahlia Project (FGM) – Helpline: 020 8571 0800

Forward (FGM / child marriage) – Helpline: 0208 960 4000 (ext. 1)

Freedom Charity (forced marriage) – Helpline: 0845 607 0133

IKWRO (HBV/FM/FGM) – Helpline: 0207 920 6460

Karma Nirvana – Helpline: 0800 599 9247

NSPCC – Helpline: 0800 028 3550

Southall Black Sisters (gender related violence against women) – Helpline: 020 8571 0800

If you wish to report an incident of HBV, female genital mutilation or forced marriage, please contact your police force directly.