A Hunter man loses appeal bid after jail sentence for facilitiating 12-year-old daughter's "marriage"

A HUNTER man who put his “religiously-motivated concerns” above his 12-year-old daughter’s welfare by facilitating her “marriage” to a 26-year-old student will stay in jail until at least November, 2020 after losing a late appeal bid against his conviction and sentence.

The man, 63, who cannot be identified, argued District Court Judge Deborah Sweeney’s guilty verdicts were unreasonable and his eight-year jail sentence was “manifestly excessive” despite his daughter becoming pregnant after three weeks of “marriage” and later miscarrying. She had just finished primary school.

NSW Court of Criminal Appeal Justice Christine Adamson rejected his arguments in a decision on June 8, saying the Hunter man put his “religiously-motivated concerns about ensuring that she was a virgin when she was married” above his daughter’s “welfare, her mother’s wishes and the law”.

The man was charged in 2014 with procuring a child for unlawful sex and being an accessory to her sexual abuse after a University of Newcastle student, who arrived in Australia from Lebanon in June, 2013, saw the girl outside a Wallsend mosque five months later and approached imams and sheiks about marrying her.

The girl’s father was found guilty in a judge-alone trial in 2015 after telling police he was concerned “there was going to be a problem” if his daughter had sexual contact with a male without being married to him, against Islamic law.

So he facilitated the 12-year-old’s “marriage” to the first man who asked and felt “relief in a way” after the ceremony in his backyard on January 12, 2014. The girl and the student had sex later that day in a Nelson Bay hotel where the father said they had privacy for “their time together”.

The girl told police her father told her “Don’t use any [birth control] pills or condom or anything, don’t let him use anything” before she left for the hotel. 

Don’t use any [birth control] pills or condom or anything, don’t let him use anything.

Father to daughter, 12, after her "marriage" to a 26-year-old

The court heard the Australian-born man converted to Islam at about 40 in 1996 after years in which he and his then wife “investigated various beliefs”. Their marriage ended in 2010 and the Family Court ordered the girl and other children from the marriage to live with their father.

The court heard the man was unemployed and had lived on disability benefits for 20 years. He had a criminal history dating back to the 1970s linked to alcohol, drug and gambling problems.

Justice Adamson rejected the man’s evidence that his daughter wanted to marry the student only a few weeks after meeting him and he “couldn’t prevent it”.

“I reject the submission that (the girl) instigated what was proposed. She was not of an age where any sexual activity involving her was other than unlawful. (Her father) had an obligation to protect her from sexual activity rather than, as he did, facilitate and encourage it,” Justice Adamson said.

“That the applicant believed his actions were justified by his religious faith neither excused nor mitigated his offending conduct.

“He could have brought the whole series of events to an end if, at the first meeting between himself and (the student) in November 2013, he had told him that he would not contemplate any “engagement”, much less “marriage” for his daughter until she was at least 16 years old. His culpability for both counts was, in my view, very high.”

The father exploited his daughter’s vulnerability and naivety and no threats or coercion were needed, Justice Adamson said.

That the (father) believed his actions were justified by his religious faith neither excused nor mitigated his offending conduct.

Justice Christine Adamson before rejecting the father's appeal

He “occupied a position of substantial power and influence with respect to his daughter who was led to believe that what was proposed was normal and sanctioned by the religious teachings which were part of her upbringing”.

Justice Adamson noted that Wallsend mosque imams approached by the student counselled against the marriage, not because of the girl’s age, but because of the cultural differences between a Lebanese-born man and an Australian-born girl.

One imam took the student’s message to the girl’s father.

Justice Adamson noted the girl’s mother told the father she did not agree to the “marriage” and “did not want anything to do with her getting married”. On the day of the ceremony the father phoned the mother “and told her (the girl) was going to get married no matter what and that next time she saw her she would be married”.

The father and the student were charged after the student and the girl moved to Sydney and the student tried to enrol her in a girls high school.

The student was convicted of child sexual abuse offences and sentenced to a maximum 10 years’ jail, with a minimum sentence of six years and six months. His student visa was cancelled and he will face deportation when released from jail.

Mayfield mosque imam Muhammad Tasawar, 35, pleaded guilty to the offence of solemnisation of a marriage by an unauthorised person, was fined $500 and his religious leader visa was cancelled.

This story Dad in denial: father of Hunter ‘child bride’ remains unrepentant first appeared on Newcastle Herald.