UK court refuses to jail woman who had baby with lover while still in marriage with her first husband
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A bigamist woman from Guildford, Surrey, who had a child with her lover while still married to her first husband of 22 years has been spared by a court in London. Brinda Kantamaneni, 43, hid her relationship as well as pregnancy with Matthew Hall from her first husband Ravi.
The Daily Mail reported that Kantamaneni’s house was close to that of Hall and that she entered an incorrect name on the birth certificate of her five-year-old child with the latter. Kantamaneni also has two children from her marriage with Ravi but was not able to speak to them for three years, the court was told.
She pleaded guilty to a bigamy charge at a previous hearing and appeared at Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing. Hall accompanied her to the court. The court was told that Kantamaneni was forced to marry Ravi in 1999 at the age of 20 in an arranged marriage in North Carolina in the United States. A traditional Indian ceremony was held later that year. The couple then had a son and daughter, now aged 17 and 15, respectively, before they moved to London where Ravi works as the director for an international consultancy firm.
Ravi demanded a restraining order against Kantamaneni from the court but it was denied. The earlier hearing was told that she could end up in jail for seven years for bigamy but Judge Hannah Duncan said during mitigation that she was not sending her to prison. The court was also told that Kantamaneni was subject to emotional and physical abuse and was made to stay in an unhappy marriage by her husband as well as father and brother.
Prosecutor Olu Phillips read out Ravi’s victim impact statement saying: “For me, everything is a constant battle”.
“My mind is in a constant movie of memories. I only live for my children and ensure they will have a happy healthy life. I don’t trust anyone. My work has been impacted. I have been forgetful, I just keep thinking about why she did this to her own children. We didn’t deserve any of this. I’m in constant distress, sadness and pain.”
Paul Mylvaganam, in mitigation, said the case is unusual but the real punishment has already happened since Kantamaneni has not spoken to her children for three years.
“When divorce proceedings initiated in 2018, she gave away her house in Arlington, Virginia, and her house in London and walked away without anything in the hopes she could see her children. In early 2020, she was reported for bigamy by her first husband. She could have tried to force seeing her children through the courts, but she was fearful at that point. She wants nothing more than to be able to build bridges and mend the relationship.” He also said Kantamaneni is a woman who can hold together a family and hopes to be a good mother to her child with Hall.
Judge sympathises with woman but said the lie was not required
The judge, who handed Kantamaneni 20-days rehabilitation activity requirement which has to be completed over two years, said: “You went through an arranged marriage when you were a very young woman to the complainant in this case. You had two children. The marriage took place in 1999, the first child was born in 2004 and the second child born in 2007. You tried to keep up the facade, but you knew your marriage was over. There was nothing legally stopping you leaving your first husband. You were perfectly entitled to do that.”
“The reason you are here is that you lied in order to live the life with a man you are in love with. There is harm in the case, not just because of the lie but due to the sad breakdown of a family. You did not want to be in the first marriage. You were reluctant to be in an arranged marriage and you were only 20 years old.”
“Several times over the years you have tried to leave your husband but you were not allowed to do so by your husband, your brother and your father. You were subjected to coercive control and subject to physical abuse. You were put into a position where you couldn’t leave.”
“You were emotionally abused and emotionally manipulated. This is how you found yourself saying a lie. This is not something you should have done. It was open to you to do things the right way, but you have already lost your job and contact with your two children. That reduces a great deal in your culpability.”
“In terms of the harm, I look at the lie you told and the humiliation, hurt and the shame you brought to your husband.”
Judge Duncan said Kantamaneni faced a “great deal of bad will” from her first husband and she kept that in her mid. She said the latter was forced to stay against her will by physical and emotional abuse and refused to make a restraining order. She also said Kantamaneni was doing her best to keep everyone happy.
The judgement did not order for costs or compensation, other than the victim surcharge.