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Friday, May 28, 1999 Published at 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK


Judge prevents forced marriage

The girl had been kidnapped and sent to India

A High Court judge has used a bogus court order to prevent a London Asian girl from being married against her will.

Mr Justice Singer intervened in the case of an unnamed 17-year-old Sikh, before ruling that her parents were guilty of child abduction.

[ image: The might of the High Court - and a fake legal document]
The might of the High Court - and a fake legal document
The case began when the girl was sent against her will to her aunt's house in a village in Punjab, where two prospective husbands were waiting.

The girl contacted her sister in London, who asked Reunite, a charity specialising in parental child abduction, to help.

They then initiated wardship proceedings in the High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Singer.

Fake court order

The judge was concerned that the girl would not be returned to England before her 18th birthday, when she would have been beyond the reach of English law.

So he issued a bogus court order which demanded that all parties who were in a position to do so should help find the girl.

Although not enforceable in law, the order convinced the Indian authorities to join Interpol, the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service to search for the girl.

A week later the girl tricked her brother into taking her to the High Commission in Delhi, promising she would say she wanted to stay in India.

Once there, she asked to come back to England and returned on 5 March.

Following the girl's return, the Mr Justice Singer said: "Child abduction is still child abduction when both parents are the abductors and the child is very nearly an adult."

In an 11-page ruling on the case he added: "While one must be sensitive to religious and cultural values, the English law requires the interest of the child to be regarded as a court's paramount consideration."

The girl, now 18, plans to return to college. A protection order is in place to stop any attempt to remove her against her will.

Her father, who received legal aid in defending the case, has been ordered to pay court costs and the cost of returning the girl to Britain, and to justify his use of legal aid.

'1,000 forced marriages a year'

News of Mr Justice Singer's actions adds to mounting pressure on the government to address the issue of forced marriages.

[ image: Ann Cryer: Campaigning against forced marriages]
Ann Cryer: Campaigning against forced marriages
Reunite estimates that 1,000 British Asian girls a year are forced into marriage against their will.

Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for Keighley, held talks with the Home Office about the issue on Wednesday.

She says she is not against arranged marriages, but against the violence sometimes inflicted on women who refused to take part in them.

On Tuesday, a Muslim woman from Nottinghamshire, along with her son, was jailed for life for killing her 19-year old-daughter Rukhsana Naz.

The court heard the pair believed she had brought shame on the family by having an extra-marital affair and becoming pregnant.

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