Women Accused Of Forcing Girl To Marry

Two women could be jailed after it was alleged they conspired to force a girl to marry against her will, breaching a Luton County Court order banning any arranged wedding.

The girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, turned up at a police station on May 20 alleging she had been forced by her family to marry a man she had only met once, counsel for Bedfordshire Police James Weston told a hearing at Luton County Court.

The girl also alleged death threats had previously been made against her if she refused to marry, he said.

His Honour Judge Sir Gavyn Arthur, presiding, said it appeared to be "a very sad case''.

The women are accused of breaching Forced Marriage Protection Orders made by Judge Arthur at Luton County Court on November 27, 2012.

Both women deny any breaches.

At an administrative hearing in the case, Mr Weston said the orders had been made after the girl told police "there were threats to take her to Pakistan and force her to marry''.

The girl had also alleged that if she refused "she would be taken to Pakistan and shot, and everybody back home would be told it was suicide''.

In November last year three court orders were made against one of the defendants, stopping her from arranging the child's marriage either in the UK or abroad, forbidding the woman to enlist another person's help in doing so, and prohibiting any harassment of that child.

The orders were backed by powers of arrest.

Judge Arthur said that in March 2012, he refused an application made by the child to lift the orders because she wanted to travel abroad to see a sick relative.

He said: "On that occasion the court was not satisfied the child was making the application of her own free will.''

In April, despite the orders which banned the child's marriage without the leave of the court, the girl was married at a religious wedding ceremony and in May a large reception attended "by between 550 and 1,000 guests'' was held at a city hotel celebrating the event, according to Mr Weston.

It was following the reception that the child "turned up in her pyjamas in a distressed state at a police station saying she had been forced to a marry a man she had met just once,'' said Mr Weston.

Neelim Sultana, representing one of the women, said her client was "of good character'' and strongly denied having anything to do with arranging the wedding.

Gemma Lindfield, counsel for the second defendant, said her client "was aware of the orders but not the terms of those orders'' and also denied any breach.

Both defendants were refused bail and remanded to appear again before the county court for an administrative hearing on Friday May 31.

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