Polygamy in the United Kingdom

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Polygamous marriages may not be performed in the United Kingdom, and if a polygamous marriage is performed, the already-married person may be guilty of the crime of bigamy.

Polygamous marriages legally performed in another country where the law allows it are not recognized for pension, immigration or citizenship purposes.[1] However, they may be recognized for the purposes of welfare benefits. This decision was not made without controversy, and there have been protests against it.[2] None the less, it is unofficially believed that there are up to 20,000 polygamous marriages in the Muslim community of the U.K. [3]

England and Wales[edit]

Bigamy is a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is committed by a person who, being married to another person, goes through a ceremony capable of producing a valid marriage with a third person. The offence is created by section 57 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861:

This section replaces section 22 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828 for England and Wales,[4] which replaced section 1 of 1 Jac 1 c 11 (1603).[5] This section replaces section 26 of the Act 10 Geo. 4 c. 34 for Northern Ireland.[4]

Subsequent case law has allowed exceptions for cases where the defendant believes on reasonable grounds that their first spouse is dead[6] or that the marriage has been dissolved.[7]

Bigamy is triable either way.[8] A person guilty of bigamy is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years,[9] or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum, or to both.[10][11]

Relevant cases are:

  • R v Crowhurst [1979] Crim. L.R. 399
  • R v Smith 1994 15 Cr App R (S) 407
  • R v Cairns [1997] 1 Cr App R (S)
  • R v Bajlu Islam Khan, Karen Mary Kennedy [2004] EWCA Crim. 3316
  • R v Trigger Alan, Mike Seed and Philip Stark [2007] EWCA 254, [2007] 2 Cr. App. R. (s) 69
  • R v Arthur William Ballard [2007] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 94

Scotland[edit]

Bigamy is an offence under the law of Scotland.[12]

Northern Ireland[edit]

In Northern Ireland, a person guilty of bigamy is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years,[13] or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum, or to both.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1,000 men living legally with multiple wives despite fears over exploitation Times online
  2. ^ UK legally recognises multiple Islamic wives
  3. ^ The men with many wives by Channel 4
  4. ^ a b James Edward Davis. The Criminal Law Consolidation Statutes of the 24 & 25 of Victoria, Chapters 94 to 100: Edited with Notes, Critical and Explanatory. Butterworths. 1861. Pages 276 and 277.
  5. ^ R v. Taylor [1950] 2 All ER 170, CCA
  6. ^ R v. Tolson [1889] 23 QBD 164
  7. ^ R v. Gould (1968)
  8. ^ The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c.43), section 17(1) and Schedule 1, paragraph 5(i)
  9. ^ The Offences against the Person Act 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c.100), section 57; the Criminal Justice Act 1948 (11 & 12 Geo.6 c.58), section 1(1)
  10. ^ The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c.43), section 32(1)
  11. ^ For case law on sentencing, see: "Sentencing Manual", cps.gov.uk (2013-03-20 revised ed.) (Crown Prosecution Service), archived from the original on 2014-12-02  |chapter= ignored (help)
  12. ^ Stair Memorial Encyclopedia
  13. ^ The Offences against the Person Act 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c.100), section 57; the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1953, section 1(1)
  14. ^ The Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (No.1675 (N.I.26)), article 46(4)

See also[edit]

Marriage in the United Kingdom