Uncle jailed for forced marriage attempt
A Birmingham man has been jailed today (Friday 31 January) for seven years - four years for attempting to force his niece into marriage and three years for child neglect to run consecutively. His wife was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years for child neglect.
Last week the pair were found guilty of the charges following a three-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
The 55-year-old man and his 43-year-old wife, from Witton, took their niece in at four-years-old when her mother had to return to Pakistan.
Years of deprivation followed and although the girl eventually found freedom with another aunt and began working, she was tricked into returning to Pakistan when she was 18 having been told that her mother was ill.
Once there, her uncle kept her prisoner and said a husband had been selected for her. After three attempts to force her to marry and a year later, with the aid of a smuggled mobile phone from a friend, she was able to contact the British Embassy and was rescued.
Today’s sentencing sees the culmination of a difficult and emotional investigation into a sensitive issue.
The court was read a powerful impact statement from the young woman, now 21. In it she said: “The trial was extremely difficult for me because I feared for the safety of my maternal family in Pakistan. Pressure was being put on them for me to drop the case. During the court case pressure to drop the case continued from the community and, at times, I felt the case would stop and I would never get justice.
“Coming this far hasn’t been easy for me but I am content that justice has been served.
“No-one should have to go through the type of abuse that I suffered.
“Education and right to marry of free will are basic human rights and nobody should be deprived of them.”
On sentencing the couple, Judge Laird said the defendants had “very sadly neglected, mistreated and assaulted” their niece, referring to beatings as “frequent and at times savage” with a “deliberate disregard for the welfare of the victim”.
He told the victim’s uncle that he had treated his niece as a "second class child in the family" and his wife should be "eternally ashamed".
He described the victim’s account of her rescue from Pakistan as “remarkable” but she has now "forged a life for herself married to the man who helped her escape".
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. I am sure that today’s sentences make her fight for justice worthwhile.
“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."
For more information visit https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/your-options/forced-marriage