A man who married a 14-year-old girl in an Islamic ceremony in Melbourne stole her childhood, says the judge who has sent the groom to prison.
But Mohammad Shakir, who shook and sobbed during his sentencing on Thursday, will spend less than a fortnight more behind bars due to time already served.
County Court Judge Lisa Hannan was satisfied Shakir, 35, knew the girl was 15 or even younger when they wed at the Noble Park mosque in September, 2016.
“What you did was legally wrong and morally indefensible,” the judge told him.
Shakir pleaded guilty to marrying an underage person, a charge attracting up to five years’ jail.
The girl’s mother, who has not been charged, played a supporting role, breaching her moral obligation to her daughter and flagrantly flouting the law, Judge Hannan said.
“She made no attempt to protect her daughter.”
Shakir was repeatedly warned by child protection workers marrying the girl was illegal but told lies to hide his criminality, the judge noted.
She said the victim was vulnerable given her age and the 20-year gap between them was relevant.
The court was told Shakir’s home country of Myanmar is permissive of child marriage but that was no excuse, Judge Hannan said.
“We have one set of laws that govern all who choose to live in our community and those laws must be upheld,” she said.
“The victim was entitled to a childhood you took from her.
“The message must be clear that offending which has the potential to so seriously damage the lives of our children will never be tolerated.”
Shakir was jailed for 18 months but permitted release on a $2000 order after serving one year.
Given time already served, he will be freed within a fortnight and must exhibit good behaviour for six months.
The judge accepted his remorse, disadvantaged history and isolation in Australia with no family, noting good rehabilitation prospects.
Shakir came to Australia by boat and spent time in immigration detention until being released on a bridging visa.
After his jail release, he will sent back to detention but cannot be deported because he is stateless.
His criminal prosecution was the first of its kind in Australia.
Former Imam Ibrahim Omerdic, who officiated the wedding ceremony, was sentenced in June to two months’ prison for his role but immediately released on a two-year bond. He is seeking a judicial review in the Supreme Court.
Dive deeper into the state of underage forced marriage in Australia: