Mother convicted of tricking daughter into forced marriage abroad in legal first

Olivia Rudgard
It is the first time a forced marriage case of this kind has been successfully prosecuted in a criminal court in England, with the mother convicted of deceiving the girl in order to convince her to travel.   - PA

A mother has been convicted of tricking her daughter into a forced marriage abroad in a case believed to be a legal first.

The 18-year-old girl was married to a man 16 years older than her while on what she had been told was a family holiday to Pakistan. 

Her mother was found guilty of tricking her into travelling and forcing her to marry following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, where a jury heard how the victim had sobbed as she was married to the male relative, who had left her pregnant following an earlier trip.

She was just 13 when the marriage contract was created against her will and had had to undergo an abortion on returning to the UK, with her GP reporting his concerns to social services.

It is the first time a forced marriage case of this kind has been successfully prosecuted in a criminal court in England, with the mother convicted of deceiving the girl in order to convince her to travel.

Forced marriage was made illegal in June 2014. A year later a man was jailed at Merthyr Crown Court for offences including a forced marriage which took place in Wales, and there is at least one other live case on-going in the courts.

Giving evidence during the trial, the girl told how wedding preparations went ahead despite her objections.

She travelled abroad shortly before she turned 18 and the couple were then married in September 2016, after she had celebrated her birthday.

The teenager had described how she was taken to get ready for the ceremony, and there an imam gave her papers to sign and asked if she wanted to get married.

The victim - under pressure from her mother - had to say "I do" or "I accept" three times, before signing.

She told the court: "I didn't want to get married to him."

After concerns were raised by UK authorities the girl's mother was summonsed to the High Court and lied on oath, telling the court that her daughter had not been married.

Jurors also heard how years earlier, following her abortion, the teenager had turned to drink and drugs.

After a referral to children's services about the pregnancy, her mother claimed her daughter and the man were just "two teenagers who had sneakily had sex".

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons to protect the identity of the victim, was convicted of deceiving the victim to go to Pakistan, in order to enter into a false marriage, forced marriage and perjury.

She was remanded in custody for sentencing on Wednesday, as her daughter watched from the public gallery.

Judge Patrick Thomas QC told the jury the adjournment was appropriate as the case was "entirely novel", with no other relevant case law to rely upon.

Following conviction, Elaine Radway, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "It is thanks to the brave testimony of the victim that this serious offending was uncovered and that there was sufficient evidence to secure the conviction today."

Superintendent Sally Holmes, from West Midlands Police's public protection unit, said it had been a complex investigation, with officers travelling to Pakistan to gather evidence.

She said: "One of the difficulties with these cases, is that ultimately, children love their parents and the last thing they often want to do is criminalise them.

"In coming forward, that is ultimately what they may find themselves doing."