"This has been an extremely complex case"
On January 24, 2020, a Pakistani couple was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court after they tried to force their niece into marriage.
The 55-year-old man was found guilty of forced marriage while his wife, aged 43, was convicted of child cruelty. They cannot be named for legal reasons.
The 21-year-old victim had been born in the UK, however, her mother had to return to Pakistan after being unable to get a visa.
The girl, who was four at the time, was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Witton, Birmingham.
But the girl was not treated as a family member. She was made to do household chores and look after younger children.
She was deprived of food and new clothing and often beaten by her uncle. During family outings, she was left at home.
The court heard her treatment was described as modern-day slavery.
The victim was sent to live in Pakistan when she was 10. She returned four years later for dental and medical treatment.
The girl was then sent to live with another aunt in Birmingham. She went on to complete her education and found a job.
In July 2016, her aunt and uncle tricked their niece into travelling to Pakistan, claiming that her mother was ill.
When she arrived in the country, her passport was taken from her and she was locked in her uncle’s room. The teenager had no access to money and was not allowed out alone.
Before leaving for Pakistan, she was suspicious so she instructed her employer to contact the authorities if she failed to return.
However, this did not happen and the girl was trapped until 2017 when she was told she was to be married to a pre-selected husband.
The victim initially refused but was threatened at gunpoint and told the marriage would go ahead.
Whilst in Pakistan, she made a friend who ended up helping her. The friend smuggled a phone to the victim and she called the British Embassy.
In September 2017, the victim, then aged 19, was rescued, taken to Islamabad and then back to the UK.
She returned to her aunt’s home in Birmingham and a Forced Marriage Prevention Order (FMPO) was taken out to protect her.
But the victim received death threats followed by threats to set her aunt’s family home in Pakistan on fire. It became a reality in December 2017 when the house was set alight.
The Pakistani couple was eventually arrested. After a three-week trial, the uncle was found guilty of forced marriage and two counts of child cruelty. His wife was convicted of two counts of child cruelty.
Detective Sergeant Helen Lenihan, of West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit, said:
“This has been an extremely complex case and a very sensitive issue, but our priority was always the welfare of this young woman.
“Her bravery in coming forward, after what she had been through, is immense and an inspiration to others in the same situation.
“It’s vital that people who are being forced into marriage understand that we will believe and support them.”
“Anyone who is considering marrying a person against their will must understand that we will thoroughly investigate any such offences, wherever they take place in the world.
“We have specialist public protection officers who work with other organisations to safeguard victims and help them throughout the judicial process.”
The Express and Star reported that the Pakistani couple will be sentenced on January 31, 2020.