IT seems remarkable that forced marriage did not become a criminal offence in England and Wales until 2014.

A forced marriage – where one or both people do not consent to a union – is a recognised form of domestic abuse and a violation of basic human rights.

Figures obtained by the T&A show that since 2014 up until May 30 this year, there have been 59 recorded forced marriage crimes in the county.

Since then only one of these cases resulted in a conviction, where a mother and a father were jailed in Leeds for trying to force their daughter to marry in Bangladesh earlier this year.

In fact, there have only ever been three convictions across the country and less than 10 per cent of cases in West Yorkshire have led to charges, with just five out of 59 crimes.

We suspect part of this may be down to the emotional and mental pressure victims experience. Years of humiliation mean they are often unwilling to give evidence in court.

But that just makes it all the more important for society to do everything it can to shine a light on this hidden crime.

In 2017 the Government introduced lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more victims to come forward.

And The Forced Marriage Unit, a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which leads on the Government’s forced marriage policy, operates both inside the UK and overseas.

If the victims cannot help themselves the police must take a proactive role.