LONDON: A mother was convicted in a British court on Tuesday of deceiving her teenage daughter into travelling to Pakistan to enter into a forced marriage, in the first successful prosecution of its kind.

The woman — who cannot be named without uncovering the identity of her daughter — was found guilty following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court where a jury heard how the girl had sobbed as she was wedded to a male relative 16 years her senior, the same man who had sex with her and left her pregnant on an earlier trip.

The then 13-year-old had to undergo an abortion on returning from Pakistan to Britain, but concerns over the girl’s welfare were allayed by her mother who said the pregnancy was a result of “two teenagers who had sneakily had sex”, prosecutors said.

Jurors heard how as the girl approached her 18th birthday she was tricked by her mother into returning to Pakistan on what she was told would be a family holiday.

The couple were then married in September 2016 despite objections from the girl, before she was returned to Britain with the assistance of the Home Office and her mother was arrested in January 2017.

The mother was convicted on a charge of deceiving the victim into travelling abroad to enter into a false marriage, the first conviction of its kind, as well as for the forced marriage itself and for perjury, after she lied about the incident in the High Court — where she was summoned when concerns were raised by authorities.

As the verdicts were read the defendant appeared shocked and 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.

“Forcing someone into marriage against their wishes is a criminal offence, and a breach of their human rights,” said Elaine Radway of the Crown Prosecution Service.

“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.” The new offence of forced marriage came into effect in June 2014, but prosecutions have been rare.

However the Forced Marriage Unit — a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office team — provided support to about 1,200 potential cases in 2017, a government spokesman said, making Britain a “world leader” in tackling the problem.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2018

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