THE new chief in charge of community cohesion at Lancashire Police is looking at new ways to prevent forced marriage.

It comes as children at a Blackburn high school tackled the sensitive issue by bringing it to light in a ground-breaking stage production.

Exactly one year ago David Cameron announced forced marriage would now be met with a jail sentence.

Sgt Mark Cruise, who is now responsible for improving relations between different cultures in Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley, said he planned to learn from the experience of his predecessors and introduce some new initiatives to break down barriers.

He said: “I know this is a very, very difficult job and people often say we will never succeed and get rid of forced marriage.

“But I think we have got to believe we can make things better and that should be the thing that drags you out of bed every morning.

“If you look at the definition of community cohesion there are various different aspects to it.

“One of the key aspects is respecting other people’s cultures, but the other thing is about people becoming a part of the bigger community.”

Sgt Cruise, who has been in eastern division for 15 years, has taken over from Sgt John Rigby, who retired from the post in March after 13 years.

Before taking up his new role, Sgt Cruise was a detective in CID and had also worked in the south east Blackburn neighbourhood policing team.

He listed engaging with the Asian community and working closely with families who have experienced forced marriage among his key priorities for the coming months.

He said: “I will certainly be spending more time dealing with community leaders and looking at approaching the issue of forced marriage from the inside.

“I want to empower organisations to get active and help prevent it.

“I will be going to speak with the Lancashire Council of Mosques about a variety of issues and forced marriages will ultimately come into that.

“It would also be good to work with families that have been in the situation and educate people in the community about it because it is a cultural thing.”

Among the initiatives Sgt Cruise has already started to bring ethnic minority and white communities together was to organise trips to mosque for members of working men’s clubs aged between 65 and 70.

Sgt Cruise said: “It is a small step and now we need to use it as a platform to get more people to go.

“Some of the men had never been to a mosque before, so it really broke down some of those barriers.”

In 2012, St Cruise said the division had dealt with around 40 cases of forced marriage.

But he said he wanted to encourage more youngsters to come forward with their concerns.

He said: “It is frightening to think how many we miss and how many are just too scared to come forward.

“They are put in scenarios where they do not know what to do and end up in terrifying situations.

“So my main job is to educate people that this is wrong.”

For more advice about forced marriages call 101.