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Mother who wanted her children to live under Islamic State control jailed

Published 08/01/2016

The woman wished to live under strict Sharia law, Leeds Crown Court heard
The woman wished to live under strict Sharia law, Leeds Crown Court heard

A British-born mother of two who tried to take her children to Syria to live under Islamic State control has been jailed for more than five years.

The woman, 34, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wished to live under strict Sharia law and believed such a regime could only be found where IS imposed control, Leeds Crown Court heard.

She abducted her children in October last year with the intention of travelling to Raqqa but was stopped by Turkish authorities in Istanbul and returned to the UK after her husband and parents contacted police.

She earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of child abduction, relating to her children, who were both aged under 16.

Sentencing the woman to five years and four months in jail, Judge Rodney Jameson QC said: "You were determined to take them to Raqqa in Syria.

"Raqqa is, and was in October 2015, the epicentre of a war zone. Further, it was, and presently remains, under the control of IS.

"It is said on your behalf that you do not support much of what IS do. It is not easy to reconcile this submission with the assertion that you believe that Sharia law is only enforced properly by IS.

"In any event, the nature of the regime imposed by IS in Syria is clear. It is beyond dispute that IS enforce their will by the use of extreme force. Such force routinely includes mutilation, rape and murder. You are an intelligent and well-educated woman, you knew this.

"The fate of your children would have been either to have subscribed, fully and actively, as we have all seen in the appalling use of a young child in an IS propaganda video in recent days, to such behaviour, or to have suffered it themselves."

The court heard the woman, who was born in the UK, spent her early childhood in Pakistan before returning to England when she was a teenager.

She became increasingly religious and gave up her job in finance in August last year, indicating it was "inconsistent" with her religious beliefs.

On October 10 last year, the woman told her husband she was taking her children to a party before boarding a flight to Istanbul.

Judge Jameson said: "You believed that taking the children to Syria to live under IS control was necessary to secure their spiritual salvation."

He added: "This was a terrible betrayal of your responsibilities to your children and of their trust in you."

The judge said the woman told police she had intended to move on from Raqqa to Mosul, in Iraq, and said the children could have returned to the UK when they were 16.

"You must have known that it was almost certainly impossible for them to have left Raqqa once there and, in any event, Mosul, also under IS control, was a scarcely less dreadful destination for your children," he said.

A pre-sentence report stated that the woman continued to hold on to her beliefs and underestimated the seriousness of her behaviour.

Judge Jameson said the mother therefore currently posed a significant risk to the children, including seeking to radicalise them or, upon release, attempting to abduct them again.

Joanne Shepherd, defending, said the woman did not intend to cause any harm to her children.

The woman, who sat in the dock wearing a black hijab, smiled as Judge Jameson passed two concurrent sentences of five years and four months.

He told her she would serve half of the sentence before being released on licence.

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