A man who married a 14-year-old girl will spend another fortnight in jail before he is sent back to immigration detention for an indefinite period.
Mohammad Shakir, 35, sobbed and shook violently throughout his sentence hearing in the County Court on Thursday, when he was formally jailed for one year after he married a girl 20 years younger than him on September 29 last year.
Shakir is the first man to appear before an Australian court prosecuted with marrying a child, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of five years.
He pleaded guilty.
He married the girl – when she was 14½ – in an Islamic ceremony at a Noble Park mosque conducted by an imam, the day after the would-be husband and the girl’s mother were warned by authorities that marrying a child was against the law.
“What you did was legally wrong and morally indefensible,” judge Lisa Hannan told Shakir on Thursday.
“The victim was entitled to a childhood that you took away from her.”
Judge Hannan jailed Shakir for one year and ordered he serve a six-month good behaviour bond once he had served his term.
That bond will be served in immigration detention because Shakir, who has already been in custody for 352 days, will only spend another fortnight in jail.
The Myanmar national will stay in immigration detention but won’t be deported, because he is a Rohingya refugee and, in effect, stateless.
He can apply for a visa while in detention, but it is unknown how long he must stay there.
Judge Hannan confirmed media could identify Shakir, as he is not BOOKr.VIP to the girl.
The girl cannot be identified.
During Shakir’s pre-sentence hearing on Wednesday, the court heard he and the girl’s mother were warned by a Department of Health and Human Services official that it was illegal for the child to be married.
The following day the man and girl were married. The union lasted five days, until Shakir was arrested.
Judge Hannan said it appeared the girl’s mother played a supportive role in the marriage.
“Her conduct during the recorded ceremony makes clear that she made no attempt to protect her daughter,” the judge said.
“The only reasonable inference is that she actively supported the illegal marriage, in clear breach of her moral obligation to her daughter and in flagrant disregard for the law.”
Shakir gave the girl’s mother a $1480 gold necklace as a form of dowry, the court heard.
The mother wasn’t charged. She and her daughter weren’t in court on Thursday.
Shakir had been a boarder at the girl’s home for six months before the wedding and considered himself a friend.
His lawyer told the court on Wednesday that Shakir wanted to “rescue” the girl from troubled relationships with family members.
Shakir claimed he didn’t know the girl’s exact age – although he knew she was under 18 – but Judge Hannan was satisfied he would have known the girl was under 15, having seen her in her school uniform and having been advised by DHHS staff and police.
The judge found Shakir exploited the child’s vulnerability.
“You knew you were contravening the law of this country and proceeded in the face of advice to that effect,” she said told Shakir.
“To say you come from a culture permissive of child marriage carries no weight and provides no mitigation as to regards for your offending.
“While religious tolerance and a firm embracement of multiculturalism are cornerstones of Australian society, it is not mitigatory to say that your conduct was permitted within the rules of Islam or any other religion or belief system.”
Shakir came from a background of disadvantage and persecution before he made his way to Australia, Judge Hannan said, and was remorseful and socially isolated in jail.
Deterring others from similar offending was vital, she said.
The imam, Ibrahim Omerdic, was this year found guilty of solemnising an invalid marriage, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
Omerdic was spared an immediate jail term by magistrate Phillip Goldberg, who suspended a two-month term for two years.
Omerdic, who was sacked from his mosque after his arrest, is appealing against his conviction.
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