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UK: Special units to crack down on honour
London, UK, -- Dedicated teams of senior
prosecutors are to be deployed in the UK's honour
killing hotspots in the wake of the failings exposed
this week by the case of a young Kurdish woman
murdered by her family.
The prosecutors, who have all had experience of
complex organised crime cases, will start work this
month as part of an overhaul of how cases are
handled. The move is designed to boost conviction
rates and improve protection for victims.
The Crown Prosecution Service has revealed the
changes after the justice system was criticised for
doing too little to protect vulnerable women. Senior
police officers told the Guardian that there are
systemic failures in how cases are handled -
measures proposed years ago have been shelved,
delayed or ignored, they warn.
Chief constables and the Home Office are also
working together with other agencies to ensure that
women in danger are identified early and dealt with
properly to improve protection for victims. Plans to
be published soon by the Association of Chief Police
Officers will tell forces to follow new risk
assessment models to ensure women are taken
seriously if they complain of family violence.
The changes come after Banaz Mahmod, a 20-year-old
Kurd, was murdered by her father and uncle because
they disapproved of her boyfriend who was not a
strict Muslim and was not of their tribe.
She was found dumped in a suitcase, with the
shoelace used to kill her around her neck. She had
repeatedly told police her family were trying to
kill her. In one instance where she had escaped from
her father, she was not taken seriously, and
described as melodramatic and manipulative by an
officer who interviewed her.
A police inquiry is under way.
The CPS will this month pilot its new approach in
four "hotspot" areas. A team of 20 prosecutors are
to be based in London, the West Midlands, West
Yorkshire and Lancashire. Each one will be trained
by a number of different agencies including the
police, the government's forced marriage unit and
the independent victims group, the Southall Black
The complex investigation and three-month trial for
Ms Mahmod's murder relied on initiatives more often
used to tackle
organised crime, such as the use of covert
investigative techniques and special measures for
key witnesses, two of
whom needed police protection. Such techniques are
increasingly used to deal with honour crimes.
The CPS will also introduce a "flag" for any forced
marriage or honour crime cases, so they can be
Nazir Afzal, the CPS lead on honour-based violence,
said that such crimes are often elaborate,
pre-planned and can involve many suspects.
Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha, Found dead The daughter,
who had left her husband
A combination of undated handout images showing (L)
Ari Mahmod and Mahmod Mahmod, released to Reuters on
June 11, 2007. Mahmod Mahmod was convicted in a
London court on Monday of murdering his 20-year-old
daughter in a so-called "honour killing" because she
had left her husband and fallen in love with another
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One in nine honour killings in the UK is carried out
by hit men, he said. It is also common for the
youngest member of the family to carry out the
murder, with the others playing a lesser role.
"Some families carrying out these types of crimes
are very subtle in how they go about it," said Mr
Afzal. He said the CPS was determined to prosecute
every individual involved. Under the new Domestic
Violence Crime and Victims Act, if a person fails to
intervene to protect a family member they too can
Mr Afzal said that the CPS was committed to
extraditing honour crime suspects who flee abroad
and that it was seeking to extradite the two
remaining suspects in Ms Mahmod's murder, believed
to be in Iraqi Kurdistan. Ms Mahmod named the two,
Omar Hussein and Mohammed Ali, as among those she
believed were plotting to kill her in a letter she
handed to the police the month before she was killed
nearly 18 months ago.
However, the service is facing legal obstacles. The
new 2005 Iraqi constitution does not allow subjects
to be extradited.