Reporter: Hannah Summers
Mother allegedly tricked girl into taking trip to Pakistan for ‘ceremony’ with man 16 years her senior.
A mother from Birmingham duped her teenage daughter into travelling to Pakistan before forcing her to marry a man 16 years her senior, a court has heard.
The woman, who faces two counts of forced marriage and is also charged with perjury, told the 17-year-old girl she was being treated to a family holiday. But it transpired she planned for her to marry her new husband’s nephew, a 33-year-old Pakistani national, jurors were told.
Once taken abroad she was confined to the house and subjected to beatings while her mother threatened to burn her passport if she did not comply with her wishes, it is alleged.
Neither the mother nor daughter can be identified for legal reasons.
Jurors at Birmingham crown court heard how she was first betrothed to the man on a previous visit to Pakistan in 2012 when she was just 13. They were told that during the trip she was visited by an imam along with her future “husband”, who was then 29, and his parents.
“[She] was asked to sign a document which she thinks was some form of marriage agreement. That night when she wanted to sleep by her cousin the cousin told her she could not do this as she had to sleep by her husband,” the prosecuting barrister, Deborah Gould, told the court.
Gould added: “She was up until that point, as you can imagine at age 13, a virgin. That night [he] had sexual intercourse with [her].”
The 45-year-old defendant and her daughter, the third of four children born in Britain, returned to the UK, where it transpired the girl was pregnant.
Gould told the court: “She told her GP she had gone to Pakistan to meet her future husband who her mother wanted her to marry when she was older and he had had sex with her.” An abortion was arranged.
Birmingham children’s services started an investigation but accepted the defendant’s account that this was a story of two teenagers who had sneakily had sex without her knowledge and the case was closed, the court heard.
The crown described the victim as a highly vulnerable teenager, desperate to win the love and affection of her parents. She was deeply affected by their divorce when she was five years old and was identified as a child with special educational needs.
But it was after the first trip to Pakistan that her behaviour deteriorated drastically, jurors heard. She ran away from home and was placed in emergency foster care. She became vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, was the victim of rape and had a second termination.
In December 2015 the teenager was moved from a children’s home into supported accommodation and came to rely more on her mother. The court heard that when her care order ended her mother persuaded social workers of her need for a family holiday and in August 2016 the pair flew out to Pakistan to stay with relatives.
But once there, the girl’s movements were restricted, it is alleged. “She had no local currency, no mobile phone and her mother kept hold of her passport,” said Gould.
On her 18th birthday the teenager’s mother told her she was to marry, showing her a photo of the man by whom she had fallen pregnant four years earlier. Gould told the court: “[She] told her mother she did not want to marry. She said he was too old for her, that she wanted to complete her education … But her mother told her she had no choice. It was, she said, a cultural matter.”
The teenager was confined to the house and forced to get up at 6am to make food for her relatives – if she refused she was hit and slapped – jurors heard. This was a pattern of coercive, manipulative behaviour to bring her into line, the court heard.
The girl managed to send a text to her sister saying she was being locked in the house and beaten, jurors heard. The alarm was raised but because her social worker was off sick no action was taken.
On 18 September she was taken to a salon and dressed for the wedding. It was there that an imam brought her a document to sign, the court heard.
“The imam did not ask for her consent and she did not give it. Once the certificate was signed by her, however, she was formally married,” Gould told the court.
She was then taken to the wedding party where she met her husband. Later she managed to ask a friend for help via Facebook and when her mother returned alone to Britain she was summoned to the high court.
It was there, the prosecution says, she lied under oath, telling a judge that no ceremony had taken place, that her daughter was happy and wished to remain in Pakistan.
When the girl was finally brought back to Britain her mother threatened her with black magic if she told anyone what had happened, it is alleged. The defendant was arrested in January 2017 and denied forcing her daughter to be engaged or married.
She said there was no thought of marriage until after they arrived in Pakistan, when the matter was raised by the girl’s prospective in-laws. She claims her daughter initially rejected the idea but later agreed to a wedding.
A social worker, Natasha McKenzie, told the court she had felt uncomfortable handing over the girl’s previously confiscated passport. Asked to describe her she said: “She is a very loud character, she is very bubbly, likes to have a laugh. She has a good heart.”
But McKenzie said the teenager suffered from “very low self-esteem” and had a “vulnerable side”. Asked if she was someone who was open to manipulation McKenzie said: “Definitely.”
The defendant denies deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the country for the purpose of a forced marriage and a second count of forced marriage. She also denies a third charge of perjury and a fourth charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
If the prosecution is successful the case could lead to the first conviction for forced marriage in England.
The trial continues.