The Role Of Expert Witnesses In Honour-Based Violence Cases in the UK

Honour-Based Violence Cases in the UK

It is a harsh reality that crimes committed in the name of “honour” have risen considerably in recent years. According to official statistics published by the Home Office, there were 2,887 reported cases of honour-based abuse, including controlling and coercive behaviour, assault with injury, threats to kill, rape, kidnapping, and stalking. Honour-based abuse (HBA) or honour-based violence (HBV) may be life-changing or life-threatening for victims and, in some cases, may result in death. In this article, we will discuss what is meant by honour-based violence and abuse and how expert witnesses can play a vital role in legal cases involving such acts.

What is meant by honour-based violence?

Honour-based violence (HBV) is a form of domestic abuse which is perpetrated because of a perceived breach of the ‘honour’ code of a family or community. HBV is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as “an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour”.

HBV is commonly perpetrated by those who are closest to the victim, including members of their own family and/or community and may include forced marriage, female genital mutilation, common assault, grievous bodily harm, harassment, kidnap, rape, threats to kill and murder. Unfortunately, cases of honour-based killing are all too common in the UK. It is estimated that each year, there are between 12 and 15 so-called “honour” killings in the UK. Such cases include the murder of 20-year-old Kurdish national Banaz Mahmod in 2006. According to the details of the case, an uncle of Banaz Mahmod, 51-year-old Ari Mahmod, employed a criminal gang who tortured, raped and strangled her. In this case, the father of the victim and her uncle had determined that Banaz Mahmod had fallen in love with a man they considered unsuitable.

In another case, 15-year-old Tulay Goren, also a Kurdish national, was murdered because of her relationship with an older man who followed a different branch of the Islamic faith. Her father, Mehmet Goren, was sentenced to life in jail for a minimum of 22 years a decade after his daughter was reported missing. Her body was never found. The trial of Tulay Goren was the first time that an expert witness was invited to give evidence to a British Court relating to a case of honour-based violence.

How can an expert witness assist in legal cases of honour-based violence?

The first use of an expert witness (Yakin Ertürk) in the case of Tulay Goren at the Old Bailey in 2009 proved how pivotal their specialist knowledge and experience can be in bringing perpetrators to justice. Depending on the type of case, expert knowledge may be required regarding:

  • the root causes of honour-based violence
  • the nature and context of honour-based crimes, including honour-based violence (HBV), forced marriage (FM) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
  • how violence can arise in different cultures around the world
  • the possible role of wider family and community members in HBV cases
  • how honour-based violence and abuse can escalate and spread within families and communities, and
  • the psychological impact of HBV on victims and family members

Honour-based violence and abuse experts may be invited to provide evidence both in criminal and civil cases (e.g. family law). Family law cases may involve, for example, an order to remove a child due to an identified risk of abduction or harm and in proceedings involving Child Arrangement Orders. An expert witness in this scenario can provide evidence on the specific risks to the child by drawing on social service and police reports.

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

At Expert Court Reports, our expert witnesses have considerable knowledge in the area of honour-based violence and abuse. Our country experts possess an in-depth understanding of the social-cultural aspects of many regions around the world, including Colombia and Venezuela, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Western Balkans, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Jamaica and the USA, and Africa. Many of our country experts have worked with top international organisations, such as the United Nations, in academia and are renowned authors and experts in the field of HBV and HBA. Our team have specialist country knowledge including in the areas of overseas legal systems, socio-cultural norms, tribal dynamics, blood feuds, LGBT issues, domestic and gender-based violence, including sexual assault, honour killing and rape cases, FGM, degrading treatment and torture, and risk of return.

In addition to our country experts, our team of expert psychiatrists and psychologists are often asked to assist in HBV/HBA cases whereby victims have experienced considerable trauma. Our plastic surgery experts can also advise on the impact on victims of the physical impact of HBV, including scarring. Our forensic physicians, forensic document examiners, GPs and other expert witnesses can all play a key role in creating a compelling case on behalf of victims of HBV and HBA.

Based on the details of the honour-based violence case and the documentation available, we will prepare an expert witness report and provide oral evidence on behalf of your client in court to ensure they achieve the best possible outcome of their case.

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, and third-sector organisations, as well as private clients.

To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email, or request a call by completing our online form.