Polygamy in the United Kingdom
Polygamous marriages legally performed in another country where the law allows it are legally recognised for the purposes of welfare benefits, but not for pension, immigration or citizenship purposes. It is unofficially believed that there are up to 20,000 polygamous marriages in the Muslim community of the U.K. There are also social media platform for polyagamous match-making such as SecondWife.
England and Wales
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:
|“||Whosoever, being married, shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband or wife, whether the second marriage shall have taken place in England or Ireland or elsewhere, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be kept in penal servitude for any term not exceeding seven years ... : Provided, that nothing in this section contained shall extend to any second marriage contracted elsewhere than in England and Ireland by any other than a subject of Her Majesty, or to any person marrying a second time whose husband or wife shall have been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years then last past, and shall not have been known by such person to be living within that time, or shall extend to any person who, at the time of such second marriage, shall have been divorced from the bond of the first marriage, or to any person whose former marriage shall have been declared void by the sentence of any court of competent jurisdiction.||”|
This section replaced section 22 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828 for England and Wales, which replaced section 1 of 1 Jac 1 c 11 (1603). This section replaces section 26 of the Act 10 Geo. 4 c. 34 for Northern Ireland.
Bigamy is triable either way. A person guilty of bigamy is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, 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.
Relevant cases are:
- R v Crowhurst  Crim. L.R. 399
- R v Smith 1994 15 Cr App R (S) 407
- R v Cairns  1 Cr App R (S)
- R v Bajlu Islam Khan, Karen Mary Kennedy  EWCA Crim. 3316
- R v Trigger Alan, Mike Seed and Philip Stark  EWCA 254,  2 Cr. App. R. (s) 69
- R v Arthur William Ballard  2 Cr. App. R. (S) 94
Bigamy is an offence under the law of Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, a person guilty of bigamy is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, 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.
- UK legally recognises multiple Islamic wives. Arabian Business, 4 February 2008.
- 1,000 men living legally with multiple wives despite fears over exploitation Times online
- The men with many wives by Channel 4
- Ltd, Rivers of Honey. "Muslim Polygamy Matchmaking | SecondWife.com". www.secondwife.com. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
- 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.
- R v. Taylor  2 All ER 170, CCA
- R v. Tolson  23 QBD 164
- R v. Gould (1968)
- The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c.43), section 17(1) and Schedule 1, paragraph 5(i)
- 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)
- The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c.43), section 32(1)
- 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
- Stair Memorial Encyclopedia
- The Offences against the Person Act 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c.100), section 57; the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1953, section 1(1)
- The Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (No.1675 (N.I.26)), article 46(4)