Police must better understand ‘honour’ crime issues, academics’ report finds

Every police force in England and Wales needs to improve how it deals with and investigates cases of crimes related to ‘honour’ against black and minority ethnic (BME) women, according to the first report of its kind on the issue by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which is published today.

Posted: 8 December 2015

image for news story Police must better understand ‘honour’ crime issues, academics’ report finds
Professor Aisha K. Gill who has been part of a HMIC review into how police forces deal with 'honour' crime.

 The report Depths of Dishonour, Hidden Voices and Shameful Crime was based on HMIC inspections and research, and a study of victim interviews by Professor Aisha K. Gill from the University of Roehampton and staff at University of Bristol, Gender Violence Research Centre. The academics interviewed victims and survivors of ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation to uncover how they felt about their dealings with police officers.

Professor Gill and the University of Bristol team interviewed 50 UK based women victims and survivors from 15 different countries in nine languages and concluded police must:

  • Better understand the dynamics of ‘honour’ in BME communities, particularly how it exerts psychological and physical control over victims. 
  • Understand how the wider family and community may be implicated in abuse.
  • Be aware of multiple barriers which exist to reporting ‘honour’-based crimes. 
  • Appreciate and act on the high level of risk facing victims who decide to approach the police. 


Aisha K. Gill, Professor of Criminology at London’s University of Roehampton, said: “Women’s lives are being put at risk through a lack of understanding and interest among the police at the operational level. No police force in England and Wales can afford to bury its head in the sand and claim: ‘it doesn’t happen here’ or that their current practices are on the whole satisfactory. A stronger, more networked and victim-focused police response to this issue is vital, if lives are to be saved.

“Far more needs to be done to provide policing which is effective in preventing harm and protecting victims and implementing a more coordinated approach that avoids failing these women.”

She added that sensitive and well-informed communication with community leaders was also essential for increasing victims’ confidence to report incidents and also to enhance knowledge of safe reporting practices.

Professor Gill and the Bristol team found that the majority of victims who reported crimes to the police were satisfied with their initial response, but most of the same group of interviewees were dissatisfied with their experience of dealing with the police overall. Many felt that the police could be more pro-active in investigating their cases; a number of those who were keen to press charges were told that their case had been dropped due to lack of evidence.

The HMIC report was commissioned by the Home Secretary, to review the police response to gender based violence, which has been highlighted as a priority for forces nationwide. Professor Gill, an established expert on ‘honour’ crimes and author in the field was commissioned together with Bristol University’s Gender Violence Research Centre to research directly with victims their feelings and understanding of policing practices, in order to inform the final report’s recommendations.

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