A GREAT Harwood firm of solicitors has secured a place in history as the first law firm in Lancashire to secure an order banning a forced marriage.

Watson Ramsbottom, based in Queen Street, was granted the county’s first-ever forced marriage protection order to prevent an unnamed 22-year-old woman from being forced into an arranged marriage in Pakistan by her father.

The order was made by the High Court, sitting at Blackburn County Court, and effectively prohibits the father from making any attempt to take the young woman abroad.

If the order was broken he would be arrested and could face up to two years in prison.

Rachel Horman, a partner in Watson Ramsbottom and the solicitor appointed to the case, said: "We want women and men to know they do not have to be forced into marriage against their will and that the police and the courts take the issue very seriously.

"We managed to obtain the order within 24 hours of seeing the client.

"We hope this case will send out a clear message that forced marriages are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

The young woman is still living with her immediate family but now has protection against an unwanted marriage.

Detective Chief Inspector Justin Srivastava, from Lancashire Constabulary’s public protection unit, said: "Thanks to new legislation, which has taken a number of years to formulate and came into force last November, this young woman can continue to lead a normal life without fear of being taken abroad against her will.

"I hope that this will allow those people who are victims of these incidents to come forward to the police or other statutory agencies so that they can be helped and given advice and support."

It has been stressed that forced marriages are very different from arranged marriages which have the consent of both parties.