'Urgent' issue

Steve Allen, commander in the Metropolitan Police Service and ACPO lead on honour-based violence, said: "To the best of our knowledge, 12 people are murdered every year for transgressing someone else's perverted notions of honour. We do not know how many commit suicide as an alternative or an escape.

"We know that around 500 men and women report to us every year their fear of being forced into marriage, or their experience of rape, assault, false imprisonment and much more, as the consequence of being in a marriage without their consent."

ACPO said that the "urgency of the issue" was such that regional forces should review their witness protection schemes to ensure that victims of "honour" crimes are included - even if they do not want to prosecute those responsible.

Victims often step back from prosecution because they are unwilling to criminalise their families or faith.

"Under no circumstances must a victim or potential victim ever be turned away and told that honour-based violence is nothing to do with the police," the new guidance states.

Cultural sensitivities

Publication of the new police strategy follows accusations that officers have in the past ignored the issue for fear of upsetting cultural sensitivities in minority communities in the UK.

At least a dozen people die each year for trangressing 'honour', Allen said 
Allen said: "The police response to this issue has nothing to do with political correctness and nothing to do with inappropriate sensitivities. The police response is about saving life, protecting those at risk of harm and bringing perpetrators to account."

Last year, Mahmod Mahmod, 52, was convicted of ordering the murder of his daughter Banaz, who lived in London, because she had left her husband who she had been forced to marry and fallen in love with another man.

The UK police were heavily criticised over their handling of the crime after it emerged Banaz had previously told officers that she believed her father was trying to kill her.

Jasvinder Sanghera, director and founder of Karma Nirvana, a UK project that helps and campaigns for victims of forced marriage and "honour" crimes, welcomed the move to provide protection for victims, regardless of whether they intended to give evidence in court.

"These victims come [to us] with such risk. It's about time we started looking at victims as victims," she said.

"Many of the people who come to us are not going to testify but they still need that level of protection. They know their families will try to track them down, seriously harm them or even kill them."

But Sanghera told Al Jazeera that the witness protection scheme proposals are only recommendations and urged ACPO to ensure all forces implement the guidelines as soon as possible.