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UK family convicted of harming Pakistani bride

Courtesy: Dawn News

LONDON: Four members of a British Pakistani family in Hud­de­r­sfield, West Yorkshire, were convicted on Monday of causing or allowing a vulnerable Pakistani woman, Ambreen Fatima, to suffer serious physical harm.

Her husband Asgar Sheikh, 30, father-in-law Khalid Sheikh, 55, mother-in-law Shabnam Sheikh, 53, and sister-in-law Shagufa Shei­­kh, 29, were found guilty after the court heard that they allowed Ms Amb­re­­en to lie unconscious for three days before calling an ambulance, with the result that she has been in a vegetative state for eight years.

The court heard that she arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 2014 for an arranged marriage with Mr Asgar, and that tensions arose within months, leading to her social isolation.

The trial opened in early October this year.

Court also convicts her in-laws of conspiring to thwart justice

After over 10 hours of deliberations, the jury at Leeds Crown Court returned a unanimous guilty verdict against her husband and his family. Her brother-in-law, Sakalyne, was found not guilty of causing or allowing her to suffer serious physical harm.

Presenting a narrative of troubling neglect and mistreatment, prosecutor Robert Steen Smith stated she became a vulnerable person by the end of July 2015. On August 1, 2015, a call was made to the ambulance service by Shagufa Sheikh, reporting that Ms Ambreen couldn’t breathe properly. Paramedics arrived to find her unconscious with a severe burn on her lower back, likely caused by a caustic substance.

The court heard that Ms Ambreen had been left unconscious for up to three days before the ambulance was called. At risk of losing her life, Ms Ambreen survived but remained in a vegetative state, unable to communicate.

Police were alerted when doctors feared Ms Ambreen’s injuries could be ‘suspicious’, as nurses were concerned she was ‘malnourished’ and ‘unkempt’ in appearance.

The prosecution contended that she might have ingested anti-diabetic medication involuntarily, causing her serious harm. However, further examination revealed additional injuries, including an injury to her right ear and signs of caustic burning on her back. Her condition might have resulted from an episode of profound hypoglycemia, leading to brain swelling and loss of consciousness, the prosecution argued, asserting that she did not have diabetes.

Pervert course of justice

All the five family members, including her brother-in-law, were also accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard that the family allegedly disposed of her soiled clothing and bedding to ‘conceal evidence’, as they provided ‘false information’ to the ambulance staff about her condition.

The prosecution alleged that one or more defendants caused her unconscious state before the ambulance was called and ‘attempted to conceal’ her condition.

Police questioned the family members who lived in the same house but no one provided an explanation for what had happened. They all were convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

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