The Met and Honour Based Violence

MQT on 2017-03-22
Session date: 
March 22, 2017
Question By: 
Peter Whittle
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Is it the Met's policy to discipline officers who are seeking to help victims of Honour Based Violence? If the Met are blocked from prosecuting those who carry out such heinous crimes, then will women continue to suffer, without any hope of intervention from the police?


Answer for The Met and Honour Based Violence

Answer for The Met and Honour Based Violence

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I thank you for your question?  I know you are interested in this area.  The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), as I am, is committed to supporting victims of so-called ‘honour-based’ violence and seeing perpetrators punished.  This is a matter the MPS and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) take very seriously.


I understand your question is in relation to a specific case that has featured in the press over the last couple of months.  As Mayor, it is not my role to get involved in the details of ongoing internal misconduct inquiries.  You will appreciate why I cannot comment on the ongoing matter.  The general point is this, though.  Like any organisation, the MPS expects its staff to follow policies and procedures and will rightly investigate any failures to do so.


As I have said before, honour-based violence is a practice that we should not tolerate.  There is certainly no honour in this sort of behaviour.  It is an oxymoron.  Tackling this horrific form of abuse in partnership with the police and other agencies is an important aim of my mayoralty.  We are determined to do all we can to protect vulnerable Londoners.


The MPS is already working hard to support and identify all victims, including victims of honour-based abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.  It is extremely disappointing that there is yet to be a successful prosecution for FGM, for example, but it is important to recognise that prosecution of FGM is an incredibly complex matter for both the police and the CPS.


The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) has invested in training those health, social care and educational professionals likely to come into contact with those at risk or those who have encountered honour-based violence.  Through education and working with police, schools and London most at-risk communities, we are doing everything we can to help change the beliefs and attitudes that lead to honour-based violence.  I firmly believe that prevention through training and raising awareness of this abhorrent crime is the key to effectively eradicating it from the capital.  That is one of the things I have learned from Assembly Member Arnold, who has worked and lobbied on this for years to make issues such as honour-based violence and FGM part of the political agenda.


Peter Whittle AM:  Thank you very much for that, Mr Mayor.  As you alluded to, this does relate particularly to the case of Detective Sergeant Pal Singh [MPS].


I wonder what your position is.  He has been charged with gross misconduct.  He came out in an interview he gave to the papers about the fact that if a particular case had gone ahead with the CPS, it would have been the first conviction for forced marriage in England.  Do you think he should have been protected under the whistleblowing legislation we have, which is in the Public Interest Disclosure Act [1988]?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have to be very careful, Chairman, how I answer this question.  Can I just read the answer that will, hopefully, address the point you are making?


I cannot comment on the details of an ongoing internal misconduct inquiry such as this.  In general, though, we want officers to feel confident in raising concerns internally and to make sure that there are systems in place to allow this.  I know that the MPS revised its policy on whistleblowing last year to help achieve this.  You will appreciate why I cannot get into the individual case.


Peter Whittle AM:  Yes, up to a point I appreciate that, but you have made this one of your priorities, quite rightly, Mr Mayor.  Some form of symbolic - if nothing else - support for the actions of somebody such as Detective Sergeant Singh would be hugely important when it comes to increasing the prosecution of this kind of violence.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There are two issues.  One is the lack of successful prosecutions.  There has been a prosecution, not successfully.  The second is the issue of whistleblowing.  Dealing with the issue of the MPS’s policy on whistleblowing, the MPS does have a comprehensive policy on whistleblowing.  That was updated last year and all members of staff, for reasons that you will appreciate, should comply with that policy.


There is a separate issue about why there has not been a successful prosecution and I have explained the steps that we are taking.  Separately, by the way, the MPS are taking many steps including Project Azure.  SCO17 has a dedicated response team with a focus on increasing public confidence in reporting honour crimes through media engagement and professional training.  It is a complex matter and we have to make sure that communities are confident coming forward.  That is why Assembly Member Arnold, who is an expert on this, has been so obsessive about making sure we educate our youngsters, particularly young girls and mums as well, about the importance of coming forward.


Peter Whittle AM:  I know that she has done work on this and it is of great interest to me.  The point that Detective Sergeant Singh was making was that he was worried that amongst our law enforcement there was a growing sense of fear of offence and a fear of, basically, cultural sensibilities being upset.  Surely, you say you cannot intervene, but if you were to at least suggest a cessation of his disciplinary proceedings, it would be a real sign being sent out that in fact you take it seriously and that we take these crimes seriously.  Can you comment?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  If you are suggesting that the Mayor of London interferes with - as is already in the public domain - a misconduct hearing that the MPS is undertaking, just think through for ten seconds the precedent that that would set for future investigations and misconduct hearings.  I am sure that you will appreciate the distinction between operational matters and matters of policy.


Peter Whittle AM:  Your role in keeping us safe, everybody in London, is probably your most important role.  Do you not think that there is oversensitivity on the part of the MPS when it comes to these general crimes?  It is extraordinary, whether it is FGM or whether it is forced marriage, we still have not had a prosecution in these areas.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I just say something?  I was hoping that I was quite clear in my answer.  There is no honour in these crimes.  As I said, it is an oxymoron.  Prosecutions should be brought without fear or favour.  A crime is a crime.  Forced marriage is a crime.  FGM is a crime.  If it is the case that these crimes are being committed, we should encourage members of the public to report these crimes to the police and then the police must take action.


Peter Whittle AM:  Fine.  I would just say that, surely, therefore - and I do not know whether you would agree - if it appears that things are dropped like the CPS just dropped this particular case and it is not quite clear why, it sends exactly the other signal: that there is no point in reporting it.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The reason why I mentioned Assembly Member Arnold is because she for years now, like me, has been going around encouraging people to report these things.  You are right that if an impression is created that when these things are reported they are not taken seriously or there are “sensitivities”, to use your word, that is the wrong message to send out.  That is why all of us need to make sure we send the message loud and clear to the community - but also to the CPS and to the police if it needs to be sent - that if a crime has been committed, it should be investigated and prosecuted.  Hopefully, we will have a successful prosecution sooner rather than later.


Peter Whittle AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.