Controversial forced marriage LCM passed

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MSPs passed controversial plans to let the UK parliament make forced marriage a specific criminal offence in Scotland, with jail terms of up to seven years on 22 January 2014.

101 MSPs backed the plans with 4 abstentions.

The vote followed a debate on the Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) on the UK Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

Earlier this month the Justice Committee called on the Scottish government to look again at whether it can introduce its own legislation on forced marriage, and unusually did not recommend whether forced marriage should or should not be contained in the LCM.

Scottish Women's Aid and Scottish Shakti Women's Aid had wanted Holyrood to draw up its own legislation.

Currently in Scotland there is no specific offence of forced marriage, however a breach of a forced marriage protection order is a criminal offence under the Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011.

Sport and Commonwealth Games Minister Shona Robison said the LCM should be passed to ensure Scotland stayed in step with the rest of the UK and was compliant with Article 37 of the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention.

Ms Robison acknowledged the unhappiness expressed by many MSPs about the use of an LCM for such a major issue, the lack of consultation and the reservations about the process.

However she said "criminalising forced marriage sent the strongest possible message that we will not tolerate forced marriage in Scotland".

The minister said there was no evidence criminalisation would prevent victims coming forward and it could equally be argued it would "empower victims" and be an "inspiration and a deterrent".

Despite the overwhelming vote at decision time a number of MSPs expressed serious concerns and reservations about the LCM process.

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