Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Father guilty over ritual beating

Zanjeer whip
The police investigated after the boy's mother made a complaint

A taxi driver has been convicted of cruelty for encouraging his 10-year-old son to whip himself during a Shia Muslim ceremony.

The boy took part in zanjeer matam, in which believers beat themselves with a wooden implement with chains and blades attached to it.

His father, 47, who also took part in the ritual at a Birmingham mosque, said he acted out of "love" and "devotion".

He was given a six-month suspended sentence at Huntingdon Crown Court.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had denied being cruel to a child.

He is the second Muslim to be convicted of cruelty as a result of allowing a boy take part in the ceremony which commemorates the death and martyrdom of a 7th Century Muslim leader, prosecutors said.

What he did, it is very clear, was out of devotion
Mozammel Hossain, defending

Mozammel Hossain, defending the father, from Rugby in Warwickshire, said that his client now knew that allowing a child to beat himself was illegal in the UK and he would not allow it to happen again.

Mr Hossain added that it was a ceremony his client had also taken part in as a child.

The court heard that the man's wife had not wanted her son to take part in the ritual in January 2007, when the man lived in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

The police investigated after she raised concerns.

"What he did, it is very clear, was out of devotion - religious - and his love for his son, in a very funny sort of way, and for his God," Mr Hossain said.

"He loves his son... his son loves him."

'Injuries slight'

Judge Nicholas Coleman, who watched footage of a ceremony during the trial, told the court that "adults are free to make their own choices but children must not be allowed to take part".

"Not only did you allow him to participate in the ceremony, in my judgment, you actively encouraged him.

"The boy's injuries were slight but they could have been worse."

The judge imposed a six-month prison term, suspended for two years, and also ordered the man to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and pay 500 in costs.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "Whether or not a young person consents to harming themselves is not the point in a case like this and the law is very clear.

"This man was responsible for his son and failed in his duty of care to protect him."

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