"I didn't want to get married to him."
A UK Pakistani mother has been jailed for 4 years and 6 months after forcing her teenage daughter into marrying a man 16 years older than her.
The then 17-year-old was tricked into the forced marriage after her mother took her on a trip to Pakistan.
This is a historical case, as it is the first successful prosecution of forced marriage of this kind in an English criminal court. Where the mother has been convicted of actively deceiving the girl in coercing her to travel abroad for such a marriage.
The 45-year-old mother who cannot be named for legal reasons to protect the identity of the victim was found guilty on two counts of forced marriage by the jury at Birmingham Crown Court on 22 May 2018.
This was after lying about what her daughter was subjected to in the High Court in a prior hearing.
The mother appeared shocked when the verdicts were read out. Her daughter, the victim, was present in the public gallery.
The defendant was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on 23 May 2018 in a packed public gallery of onlookers and press.
The trial heard the sequence of events which led to the teenage daughter being forced to marry a much older man in Pakistan.
The teenage daughter was duped into going to Pakistan in 2016 for a holiday and promised an iPhone. However, the girl was told that after she turned 18 in September 2016, she would be marrying the man much older than her, who was a relative.
It was revealed that the same man had taken the virginity of the victim when she was only 13 years old in 2012 after a ‘marriage’ was agreed for her with this man against her will. He was 29 years-old at the time.
When she returned to the UK, she had to have an abortion because she fell pregnant. The girl’s GP at the time raised his concerns to social services.
The mother was then summoned to the High Court regarding the welfare concerns of the victim. Where she lied on oath saying her daughter and the man were just “two teenagers who had sneakily had sex” in Pakistan, resulting in her pregnancy.
The hearing heard how after the abortion, the victim turned to drink and drugs, to numb the trauma she went through.
The teenage daughter gave evidence at the trial against her mother and revealed how she objected to the wedding but was not given any choice and the wedding was forced to go ahead.
When the victim showed her total discontent and protested against the marriage with this senior man, her mother assaulted her and subsequently threatened that her British passport would be burnt, forcing her to stay in Pakistan.
The victim did make contact with family in the UK seeking help, however, the wedding ceremony still took place.
On the wedding day, the victim was taken to a venue, where a religious ceremony was performed without the need for the older groom to be present.
An Imam asked her if she wanted to get married and gave her papers to sign as proof of the marriage.
At this point, she was pressured and forced by her mother to agree and say ‘I do’ or ‘I accept’ three times. After which she was told to sign the certification papers.
The victim only met her husband-to-be after she was taken to a wedding hall, firmly escorted by her mother who led her by holding her, where a ring was put on her.
Guests at the wedding then greeted them as husband and wife.
The teenager told the jury how she cried to her mother, who just would not pay any attention to her pleas.
“I didn’t want to get married to him.”
The victim, who is now 19 years-old, had a troubled upbringing and, at one time, had been placed into a children’s home
The prosecution, led by Deborah Gould told the court that the victim was “a young girl who has been let down badly by her mother, whose love and attention she craves”.
Speaking on behalf of the victim, Gould said she “feels guilty” for taking her mother to court. Adding: “If it wasn’t me in this position could it have been one of my brothers or sisters?”
But to fight this injustice in her life, Gould said: “She was proud of herself for coming to court.”
Social services brought the defendant before Family Division of the High Court after she returned to the UK without her daughter. The mother lied to the court that daughter had not been married and stayed in Pakistan willingly. The judge who heard the case ordered the immediate return of the victim to the UK.
With the assistance of the Home Office, the victim was brought back to the UK. This led to the arrest of her mother in January 2017, after police were informed about the case.
After the guilty verdict, Elaine Radway, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said:
“Forcing someone into marriage against their wishes is a criminal offence and a breach of their human rights.”
“As this prosecution demonstrates, the CPS will work with partner agencies to identify and prosecute those who coerce, control, dominate or exploit a victim to force them into marriage.”
The investigation was complex according to Superintendent Sally Holmes, from West Midlands Police’s public protection unit. Officers had to travel to Pakistan to investigate and gather evidence. Speaking of the victim, Ms Holmes said:
“Where the difficulty has been greatest is obviously for the victim.
“She’s been incredibly brave coming forward, and reporting this to us and I think her bravery has absolutely to be acknowledged.”
Judge Patrick Thomas QC, sentencing the mother, said the victim had been “sold for her passport”.
In his speech to the defendant he said:
“You had cruelly deceived her. She was frightened, alone, held against her will, being forced into a marriage she dreaded. You must have known that was her state of mind. Yet for your own purposes, you drove the marriage through.
“Her courage and respect for the truth throughout these proceedings have been admirable, and are a marked contrast to your own cowardice and deceit, continuing right through this trial and no doubt hereafter.”
“You have sought to blame her for everything, and yourself have accepted responsibility for nothing.”
The maximum sentencing for a case like this is 7 years. For this particular case, he sentenced the mother to three and a half years, plus one year for perjury.
Following the sentencing, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said in a statement:
“No child should be forced into marriage, and this case shows that victims can come forward in the knowledge they will be listened to.
“Children as young as 13 have contacted Childline worried about being forced into marriage yet fearing they will be cut out of their community if they refuse.
“We would urge anyone worried about a child to speak up before it is too late, so that we can get help and prevent them being bound into something they would never ask for.”
Victims and young people can contact Childline in confidence, 24/7, via the number 0800 1111 or get in touch via www.childline.org.uk.