A Romanian man has been jailed for six years for raping his 12-year-old "wife" after he set up a home with her in Essex.
The 25-year-old, of Romany gypsy background, allegedly illegally married the young girl in their native country last year, before they moved to the UK.
He pleaded guilty to raping a girl under the age of 13 in a previous hearing.
However, he has said he wants to rekindle his relationship with the girl when he comes out of prison, the Deccan Chronicle reports.
She is thought to have returned to Romania and is believed to be expecting her child in the next few weeks.
Jamie Sawyer, prosecuting, told the court the age of consent in Romania is 16, the same as in the UK.
According to Essex Live, he said: “They met in Romania and in the victim’s view, no one complained about the age gap between them.
“She has gone back to Romania, and the defendant says how he has a wish to reignite that relationship when he is able.”
The illegal marriage was discovered when police stopped a car at a car wash in Epping in April.
The defendant, his "wife," and two other children were in the car.
Police later searched an address in Epping where the defendant lived with the victim and found a small room with a double bed which they shared.
Laura Kenyon, speaking on behalf of the defendant, argued his cultural background was an important mitigating factor.
“I have not found any similarity in another case – these facts are unusual. There is no grooming, exploitation, force or coercion in this case," she said.
“This was consent within a marriage, albeit an unlawful marriage. This is a widespread practice, an ancient custom that is still used today.
“The marriage of a young girl and older man is not an extraordinary event in their culture. He is following that tradition and is caught up in it."
Ms Kenyon proposed the court suspend any custodial sentence, adding: “They live outside of mainstream society in Romania. He does not have the exposure to a different way of life to understand it is wrong.
“Roma are still badly marginalised – the authorities do not care and are not doing enough to address this issue.
“It is his upbringing that brings him in front of the court today."
In her sentencing remarks, Judge Lynch said: "The issue here is the age of consent and age of lawful marriage in Romania is the same as in this country, it is 16 years of age.
“Sexual activity with children is against the law and we are dealing with a 12-year-old child, no matter what the customs are in another land.
“She is a child expecting a child I am told in a few short weeks and I am told she will not have an education in Romania.
“This is not a case of informed consent. Children need to be protected from others and from their selves.”
The man was given full credit for admitting statutory rape and was jailed for six years.
He will also spend 10 years on the sex offenders register.