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Birmingham couple convicted of forced marriage and child cruelty

A Birmingham man has been convicted of attempting to force his niece into marriage at Birmingham Crown Court today (24 Jan). Along with his wife, he has also been found guilty of child cruelty.

The 21-year-old had been born in the UK, but her mother had to return to Pakistan after being unable to get a visa, so the four-year-old girl was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Witton, Birmingham. 

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Far from being treated as a member of the family, 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. She was left at home during family outings and her treatment can only be described as modern day slavery.

At 10, she was sent to live in Pakistan, but returned four years later for dental and medical treatment. At this point she was sent to live with another aunt in Birmingham, where she completed her education and found employment.

In July 2016 her aunt and uncle, who cannot be named for legal reasons, tricked the teenager into travelling to Pakistan, telling her that her mother was ill and she needed to visit her. But when she arrived her passport was taken from her and she was locked in her uncle’s home. She had no access to money and was not allowed out alone.

Before leaving for Pakistan she became suspicious so left instructions with her employer to contact authorities if she failed to return. Sadly this didn’t happen and the teenager was trapped until the following year when she was told she was to be married and a husband had been selected for her. When she tried to refuse, she was threatened with a gun and told the marriage would go ahead.

Fortunately, she found a lifeline in a friend she had made in Pakistan, who smuggled a mobile phone to her, and she was able to call the British Embassy. And in September 2017 the woman, then aged 19, was rescued, taken to Islamabad and then back to the UK.

Back with her aunt in Birmingham, a Forced Marriage Prevention Order (FMPO) was taken out to protect her, but the terror didn’t stop there and death threats were followed by threats to burn her aunt’s family home in Pakistan, which became a frightening reality in December 2017 when the house was set on fire. 

Following a three week trial, the 55-year-old uncle was convicted of forced marriage and two counts of child cruelty. The 43-year-old aunt was convicted of two counts of child cruelty. They will be sentenced on Friday 31 January.

Detective Sergeant Helen Lenihan, from our 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."

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