Forced Marriage

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Forced Marriage

 

Coercing someone into marrying another for some financial or societal benefit is illegal.

 

In April of this year, three young women in Sheffield became subject to Forced Marriage Protection Orders. This case highlights the how embedded this type of offending is in some parts of England and Wales, particularly concerning young girls.  

 

Various offences fall under the banner of forced marriage, and it is essential to be aware of their constituent parts if you are concerned about this issue.   

 

While family law courts make orders of the kind mentioned above, breaching them engages the criminal law. 

 

What is the offence?              

 

A serious offence is using coercion or deception for the purpose of marriage, under section 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

 

This offence occurs if someone”

 

 "uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a marriage, and believes, or ought reasonably to believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent."

 

What are the penalties?   

 

The offence is triable either-way (so before a magistrates’ court or a crown court) but warrants significant sentences following a conviction on indictment, seven years' imprisonment (and/or a fine) being the maximum penalty. 

 

Similarly, the related offence of breaching a forced marriage protection order can lead to a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment. Prior to the 2010 legislation the only punishment for doing this was contempt of court. That is still an option under the new regime, alongside this new penalty. 

 

Forced marriage and mental health     

 

These offences inevitably lead to interactions between the law and people’s religious and cultural views.

 

Another aspect is protecting those who are incapable of consenting to marriage because of mental incapacity.   

 

All these factors were considered in the case of Luton BC v B [2015] EWGC 3534 (Fam). In that case, a person was deemed to lack capacity to consent to either marriage or sexual relations, in relation to the latter specifically because "the combination of autism and intellectual disability prevents [the person] from making the crucial link between actions and consequences”. 

 

How we can help

 

If you are alleged to have been involved in these or any other offences, or have further questions about this area of law, then please contact Damien Morrison on 01904 666 888, or email dm@maasolicitors.co.uk. We have specialists available who fully understand these particularly complex laws.

Harassment

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What is harassment?

 

There are two distinct criminal offences, one of harassment putting people in fear of violence and one without. Stalking is a similar but separate offence and is not covered in this article.

 

What does it involve?

 

There has to be a course of conduct involving as little as two incidents against another person or persons.

 

The dictionary definition is to “torment by subjecting to constant interference or intimidation”.

 

The law does not provide a comprehensive definition and there are many actions that can foreseeably alarm or cause a person distress that would not constitute harassment.

 

The offence is aimed at conduct that alarms or causes a person distress and which is oppressive and unreasonable.

 

What do the prosecution have to prove?

 

•    That there is a course of conduct;

•    which amounts to harassment of another; and

•    which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.

 

Additionally, for the more serious offence the prosecution has to prove:

 

•    that the course of conduct causes another to fear that violence will be used against him; and

•    that the defendant knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will cause another to fear that violence would be used against him

 

How do I know it is harassment?

 

The test of whether you ought to know whether the course of conduct amounts to harassment is whether a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would think the conduct amounted to harassment. The same test applies in respect of fear of violence.

 

Are there any time limits?

 

At least one of the incidents has to have occurred within six months of the charge, for the basic offence without violence.

 

What about defences?

 

There are three available defences for the basic offence:

 

1.    that the course of conduct was for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime;

2.    that it was conducted under a rule of law;

3.    that it was reasonable in the circumstances.

 

Additionally, it is a defence for the more serious offence if the course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of the defendant or another or for the protection of their or another’s property.

 

What sentence could I get?

 

For the offence without violence (the basic offence) up to six months imprisonment can be imposed (2 years if racially aggravated).

 

For the more serious offence involving fear of violence the maximum sentence was 5 years and is 10 years for offences committed on or after 3rd April 2017 (7 or 14 years if racially aggravated, again dependent on date of offence).

 

A restraining order can also be imposed, the aim of which is to protect the victim of the offence from further incidents, contact or risk of violence. Such an order can prevent contact with the victim and provide for an exclusion zone around their address. A restraining order can be imposed even if you are acquitted of the offence.

 

The law in respect of harassment and the potential defences is complicated, and there are other specific offences of harassment (for example of debtors) that are not covered in this article.

 

How we can assist

 

If you are being investigated for or have been charged with this offence please contact our office for further advice and representation, our solicitors are experts in criminal law and can guide you through the complexities. Please contact Liam Hassan on 01904 666 888 or by email at lh@maasolicitors.co.uk.

 

 

Forensic Testing - Is your conviction safe ?

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Forensic Testing - Is your conviction safe ?

New details have emerged about forensic testing deficiencies at two of the country's leading laboratories. Police are currently investigating the circumstances, and a number of people have been arrested.

 

Randox Testing Services (RTS) and Trimega Laboratories handle samples for some of the most high-profile criminal and family law cases, the accuracy of the tests being of paramount importance to people facing criminal prosecution for offences ranging from drink driving to murder.

 

Home Office Minister Nick Hurd told parliament:

 

'Most drug tests from RTS between 2013 and 2017 are being treated as potentially unreliable. RTS was mainly commissioned by individual police forces when investigating criminal offences.'

 

It is believed that the results from as many as 10,000 tests could be under question.

 

Is Your Conviction Safe?

 

If a conviction in your case rested wholly or partially on the reliability of forensic tests, it is essential that you seek further legal advice.

 

While the Crown Prosecution Service will be carrying out a review into criminal cases, this will take a considerable period of time, and many will question whether the body that brought the prosecution in the first place is ideally placed to make decisions as to the safety or otherwise of a conviction.

 

Those affected will, therefore, wish to consider whether any further forensic testing ought to take place, and even whether or not there are grounds to appeal. All convictions will need to be considered on a case by case basis.

 

Even if your cases did not involve the two laboratories currently under investigation, this scandal throws a spotlight on the hidden world of forensic testing and calls in to doubt results from other forensic testing providers.

 

How We Can Assist

 

Regardless of whether we handled your case initially our experienced team of lawyers has the expertise to ensure the safety of your conviction is beyond question.

 

If you believe that inaccurate forensic testing may have led you to be wrongfully convicted (and that includes pleading guilty to an offence), please contact Damien Morrison on 01904 666 888 or dm@maasolicitors.co.uk.

 

None for the road...

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None for The Road

As we put Halloween and Bonfire Night behind us, easing into those dark wintry nights, it isn't long before Christmas is in our sights and party season gets underway.

As night follows day, this time also coincides with a national police initiative concerning drink driving, as forces across the country prepare for a spike in the numbers of those tested and arrested for drink and drug driving offences.

While these offences may not seem particularly serious when viewed against other offences, what is not often understood is the real impact that a conviction can have.

Research shows that loss of a licence leads in a great many cases to loss of employment, in turn to loss of housing as bills cannot be paid, and sometimes it is the final straw that breaks a relationship. The financial costs will be felt for many years thereafter as insurance premiums will be greatly increased.

What we also see is that a great many people come before the courts with alcohol readings that are not high, and where offences have been detected the 'morning after'. Offences that can be said to have been committed perhaps more out of ignorance than a wilful disregard for others.

A single error of judgment with devastating consequences.

 

What is a safe level of drinking if I propose to drive?

No alcohol is the safest level as it ensures that when you get behind the wheel, your reactions are not impaired to any degree at all.

Crucially it also prevents the guesswork that brings so many people before the courts.

Urban myths such as '2 pints are ok' have long since been proved to be false, as have back of the envelope guesses as to how long it takes alcohol to leave the body.

Different people will deal with alcohol in different ways, and even this can vary for a single person depending on a multitude of factors.

Merely feeling OK to drive is not a reliable indicator as to whether you are below the legal limit or not.

As we get merry, we reach a tipping point; we can make foolish choices that will prove costly, sometimes not just measured in financial terms but in injury and even loss of life.

You do not hear a lawyer say this often - but we do not wish to see you this Christmas.

 

Think, before you drink and drive.

 

How we can assist ?

If you do find yourself in trouble, there is a lot we can do to assist.

The police must follow complex procedures to establish a case against you – we can ensure that this has been done.

We can also investigate issues such as 'laced drinks' and 'special reasons'.

Well-presented mitigation can make a real difference to the outcome and even where a disqualification cannot be avoided, we can often achieve a reduction in length.

 

Contact Damien Morrison on (01904) 666 888 or dm@maasolicitors.co.uk to discuss any driving related matters.