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19th October 2023

Honour Based Abuse Offences rise by 1%

Our view on the latest Home Office data from Police forces in England & Wales.

Since December 2020, the Home Office has been annually releasing policing statistics on Honour Based Abuse-related Offences. The latest report reveals that there were 2,905 HBA-related offences, indicating a 1% increase compared to the previous year, which reported 2,871 such offences. The offences primarily include controlling and coercive behaviour (19%), assault with injury (16%), and assault without injury (12%).

Here is a two-year comparison conducted by Karma Nirvana:

Police Forced Area Police HBA Offences 21/22Police HBA offences 22/23%+/-
Avon and Somerset116102-12%
Bedfordshire 637925%
City of London00
Devon & Cornwall160-100%
Greater Manchester 366319-13%
Metropolitan (London)4274403%
North Wales60-100%
North Yorkshire1710-41%
South Wales496431%
South Yorkshire778916%
Thames Valley8512041%
West Mercia242713%
West Midlands37141311%
West Yorkshire159128-19%
A two-year comparison on HBA-offences by Police Forces

Every year, the Home Office data release reminds Karma Nirvana how little is actually known about Honour Based Abuse, including its scope, scale and prevalence.

Regrettably, the annual data releases by the Home Office offer a sobering reminder of how little is actually known about Honour Based Abuse. This absence of key information, such as the number of victims, including children, affected by Honour Based Abuse, and the current tally of active perpetrators, leaves a critical gap in our understanding. Moreover, the data fails to shed light on the criminal justice outcomes for Honour-Based Abuse Offences, neglecting to provide insights into successful prosecutions and convictions. Our firm belief is that data, without this vital contextual information, remains nothing more than mere numbers.

Karma Nirvana welcomed the 2015 recommendation by HMICFRS for the publication of Honour-Based Abuse data. The move from the previously restrictive practice of obtaining this information through arduous Freedom of Information Requests was indeed a positive step. However, the substance of the data is where it falls short.

In response to the significant policing data gaps highlighted in the 2015 HMICFRS inspection report, the specific recommendation to capture policing data represented a landmark opportunity to enhance our understanding of this issue. It is disheartening, as we reflect eight years later, to realise that we are still no closer to comprehending the true extent and prevalence of this hidden harm.

In July 2023, Karma Nirvana also welcomed the Honour Based Abuse Inquiry report by the Women and Equalities Committee. This report brought to light a range of troubling findings and crucial recommendations. Once again, this inquiry underscored the inconsistency in how data related to Honour-Based Abuse offences is collected and recorded by law enforcement. The report stressed that:

There is insufficient information provided in the published data, and the lack of ethnicity data makes it particularly difficult to know in which communities honour based abuse occurs, in what forms, and how those communities are being served by police and other agencies.

Forced Marriage

In the year 2022/23, there was a 22% increase in FM Offences, rising from 141 to 172 cases. During the same period, the number of cases supported by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit declined by 10%, dropping from 337 cases in 2021 to 302 in 2022.

Note: The FMU publishes data annually from January to December, which differs from the Home Office’s publication of police data from April to March.

Urgent Appeal for a Statutory Definition of Honour Based Abuse

On September 18th, we addressed a letter to the Home Secretary expressing our concerns regarding the Women and Equality Committee Honour Based Abuse Inquiry report. We have highlighted how a lack of definitional clarity makes it difficult to reliably measure Honour Based Abuse. We hear through our work the disparity in police responses and understanding of Honour Based Abuse.

We emphasised the urgent need for a clear statutory definition for Honour Based Abuse, citing the positive impact of statutory definitions for Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation on understanding and reporting. We urge the government to adopt the Committee’s recommendation for a statutory definition to enhance the reliability and quality of data on Honour Based Abuse.