LANCASHIRE’S Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Saima Afzal has supported early intervention to stop young people being forced into marriage, speaking from her own personal experience.

Many years ago, she was made to marry a man who then abused her. Now Miss Afzal said it was vital to change attitudes.

It means parents who force their children to marry can be punished by up to seven years in prison Ms Afzal said: “My father got me out of that relationship. I was pregnant.

“He said the man he had made me marry had dishonoured me. But he could have done with some support.

“If we focus on early intervention rather than just reacting, that’s what we need to do. We need to change attitudes.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said the practice was ‘a tragedy for each and every victim’ as a new law making it a criminal offence to force people into marriage took effect.

Previously, courts have only been able to issue civil orders to prevent victims being forced into marriage.

It will apply if people are forced into marriage in England and Wales or at risk of being forced into marriage abroad.