Claire Duffin, Telegraph (London), May 28, 2013
A 16-year-old girl was allegedly forced to marry a man she had met only once despite being the subject of a court order designed to protect her from being married against her will.
After her wedding reception, which was attended by between 550 and 1000 guests, the teenager went to a police station “in her pyjamas and in a distressed state”, a court heard.
Her mother and aunt were subsequently arrested for allegedly breaching a forced marriage protection order which had been issued in November.
They appeared at Luton County Court on Tuesday.
The court heard that the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, first went to Bedfordshire Police for help in 2012.
James Weston, counsel for the force, said she told officers that her family had threatened to send her abroad to marry. She also claimed she was told that if she refused she would be “taken to Pakistan and shot, and everybody back home would be told it was suicide”.
As a result, she was made the subject of a forced marriage protection order.
The order, backed by the power of arrest, banned the child’s marriage without permission of the court. It also prevented her from travelling abroad and banned her mother from arranging a marriage, or enlisting the help of someone else to arrange it.
But in April the girl was wed at a Muslim ceremony, the court heard.
This was followed by a reception at a hotel the next month. It was attended “by between 550 and 1,000 guests”, Mr Weston said.
After the reception, the girl went to police for the second time on May 20. Mr Weston said she “turned up in her pyjamas in a distressed state at a police station saying she had been forced to marry a man she had met just once.”
The court heard that in March 2012, the child applied to have the order lifted so she could travel abroad to visit a sick relative.
But the court refused. His Honour Judge Sir Gavyn Arthur, presiding, said: “On that occasion, the court was not satisfied the child was making the application of her own free will.”
Neelim Sultana, representing the girl’s mother, said her client was “of good character” and strongly denied having anything to do with arranging the wedding.
Gemma Lindfield, counsel for the aunt, who is the sister of the girl’s mother, said her client “was aware of the orders but not the terms of those orders” and also denied any breach. Both women have been remanded in custody until May 31.
The Forced Marriage Act was introduced in November 2008 to protect young people who feared being forced into a marriage against their will.
The victim can apply for the order themselves or the police, friend or family member can also apply on their behalf. Anyone found to have breached a forced marriage protection order can be jailed for up to two years.
In February 2011, Lydia Erhire became the first person to be sent to prison for breaching an order.
She was sentenced to eight months after she refused to sign documents allowing for the repatriation of her son Edirin Onogeta-Idogun, then aged 17, after he claimed he was taken to Nigeria against his will.
A forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage, where families chose partners but the couple are free to accept or decline the arrangement. Up until 2011, the most recent figures available, 293 orders had been issued.