10 Jun 2015

Forced marriage: man sentenced in historic first prosecution

A man is sentenced to 16 years in prison after becoming the first person in the UK to be prosecuted under forced marriage laws.

The 34-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was jailed after making a 25-year-old woman marry him under duress last year.

Merthyr Crown Court heard the already married man systematically raped his victim for months before threatening to go public with hidden camera footage of her showering unless she became his wife.

‘Irrational obsession’

The 34-year-old developed an “irrational obsession” with his victim and lured her to his home under the promise of a get-together with friends.

But when she arrived at his home in Cardiff, the woman found the property empty before the curtains were drawn and the front door locked.

A judge then told of how the terrified woman – a devout Muslim – was bound and gagged with scarves before music was played loudly to drown out her cries for help.
The Cardiff businessman pleaded guilty to four counts of rape, as well admitting forced marriage, bigamy and voyeurism.

Judge Daniel Williams said the defendant used “constant threats” to try to keep his victim quiet: “You threatened that if she disclosed the rape to anyone, you would make that video public. You made her feel that she was no longer marriage material (for anyone else) in the hope that she would turn to you.”

The court heard that following months of being “systematically” raped, the man suddenly turned up at the woman’s place of work and drove her straight to a mosque.

“She was told that if she did not submit to your demands her parents would be killed,” added Judge Williams.

‘Exercise of control’

The court heard that the man had preyed upon his victim for years – and even managed to convince her a then boyfriend of hers was gay after setting up a fake Facebook page.

Judge Williams also detailed the defendant’s attempts to try to have his case thrown out – changing his pleas a number of times at the 11th hour – as an “exercise of control” over the woman in the hope that she drop the case against him.

For the rapes, voyeurism, bigamy and forced marriage, the defendant was sentenced to 16 years custody before being made the subject of an extended licence for five years.

Judge Williams also said the man – who claimed to follow Islam – would remain on the sex offenders’ register for “an indefinite period”. Before sending the defendant down, Judge Williams praised the victim’s bravery in coming forward.

Forced marriage

Forced marriage was criminalised under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and came into force last June.

Iwan Jenkins, Head of Crown Prosecution Wales Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit, said: "Forced marriage wrecks lives and destroys families. We hope that today's sentence sends a strong message that forced marriage will not be tolerated in today's Britain.
"It is a testament to the strength of the case which we constructed with the police that we secured a guilty plea for the offences in this case.
"The victim has shown great courage and bravery in reporting these matters. This conviction illustrates the seriousness in which these crimes are treated and investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service and South Wales Police.
"I hope today's sentence brings some closure for those who have suffered as a result of these particularly nasty and invasive crimes."

Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, Karen Bradley, added: "We made forced marriage a criminal offence to better protect victims and send a clear message that this brutal practice is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK..
"We are encouraged by this first conviction and hope that the new law is also having a deterrent effect. However, we know legislation alone is not enough and we remain focused on prevention, support, and protection for victims and those at risk of becoming victims.
"The UK is a world-leader in the fight to stamp out this brutal practice, with our Forced Marriage Unit leading efforts to combat forced marriage both at home and abroad.”