A boy as young as eight is among scores of children feared by judges to be at risk of forced marriage as official figures reveal police are struggling to bring cases to court.
The schoolboy – thought to be one of the UK’s youngest known potential victims of forced marriage – is among 71 children, teenagers and women in West Yorkshire guarded by special court orders since 2014.
His case came to light as police figures, obtained by the Guardian, showed that only a fraction of investigations into forced marriage result in a prosecution. Many are dropped because victims are too scared to give evidence against their abuser.
In West Yorkshire, five of the 51 cases investigated since June 2014 resulted in a suspect being charged.Thirty-five of these investigations were dropped due to “evidential difficulties”, of which 16 were “victim-based” problems, the figures show.
There was a similar pattern in the West Midlands, where 19 of its 31 investigations resulted in no charges – eight because the victims did not support further action. There has been one conviction so far under a new forced marriage law introduced in June 2014.