Women who tried to cheat Telford court order in hair swap are given suspended sentences

Two women who conspired to cheat a court order by having one of them impersonate the other and give hair samples have been given suspended jail sentences.

One of the women was involved in a custody case at Telford's family court in 2017, and as part of the proceedings she was ordered to give a sample of her hair for drugs tests.

An appointment for the sample-taker to visit her home was set up in October 2017, but when she arrived she was met by another woman, Amy Manik-Nawani.

Manik-Nawani, unbeknownst to the sample-taker, was impersonating the other woman and she provided a tax bill with the other woman's name on as 'proof' of her identity.

The testing company employee was satisfied and took a sample of Manik-Nawani's hair, before sending it off to the laboratory.

'Utterly wrong, grossly stupid'

Their deception was revealed when another party in the family court saw a photo of the person the hair was taken from and recognised it was not the right woman.

Both women were eventually prosecuted for perverting the course of justice, with the other woman pleading guilty and Manik-Nawani denying knowing there was any court order in place.

She was convicted by a jury last month, and both were brought back to Shrewsbury Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced.

Representing Manik-Nawani, who is 46 and from London, Miss Chiara Maddocks said the defendant was regarded as a "hard-working, trustworthy pillar of her community" prior to the offending.

She said she accepted the jury's verdict, but that she had never sought to benefit personally from her actions.

'Drastically deteriorated'

She also told the judge that she had childcare responsibilities, and that conditions for prisoners have drastically deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic – many prisoners are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day while self-harm is especially common in prisons holding women.

Lastly, she added: "This is not someone who will trouble the criminal justice system again in the future."

Mr Rob Edwards, representing the co-defendant, said his client understood "what she did was absolutely and utterly wrong".

"What was done struck at the heart of proceedings but it wasn't done by someone who was thinking clearly at the time.

"This is a spur-of-the-moment thing that was done, one which was grossly stupid, and one which, since it happened, has weighed on her mind."

She was struggling with her mental health and had previously suffered domestic abuse, he said.

She had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had herself been the victim of "serious offending", the court heard.

'Striking at the heart of the justice system'

Judge Anthony Lowe told the women: "Offences of perverting the court of justice always strike at the heart of any justice system and that is why immediate custodial sentences are nearly always imposed – in order to deter others from behaving in this way."

He decided to suspend their sentences "with a great deal of hesitation", but only because of two factors: the delay in the case reaching the crown courts, and the conditions for prisoners during the pandemic.

Manik-Nawani, of Queen Mary Avenue in London, received a six-month sentence, while her co-defendant received one of eight months for playing the "leading role". Both were suspended for two years.

They were also both made subject to curfews, from 8pm to 8am.

Manik-Nawani was ordered to pay back £3,500 to pay the prosecution costs for her trial.

The co-defendant was ordered to carry out 35 rehabilitation activity days.

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