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20 MAR 2008

Islamic phone marriage ruled invalid

The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that an over the telephone" Muslim marriage between an autistic British man, known as IC, and a woman in Bangladesh, known as NK, is invalid.

The 26-year-old man, whose Bangladeshi parents live in England, functions at the level of a three-year-old and is said to be highly suggestible.

It was accepted on all sides that in English law he lacks the capacity to marry and to consent to sexual intercourse. However, the marriage, which would have enabled his new wife to get a visa and join him in the UK, is valid according to Sharia law and the law of Bangladesh.

In September 2006, IC's parents arranged for him to be married over a speaker telephone while IC was in England and NK was in Bangladesh.

The Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Wall and Lady Justice Hallett said:

"Their engineering of the telephonic marriage is potentially if not actually abusive of IC. It is the duty of the court to protect IC from that potential abuse. The refusal of recognition of the marriage is an essential foundation of that protection."

The case was brought by Westminster Social and Community Services Department, which has been involved in caring for IC since he was four years old.

The judges refused the parents permission to appeal to the House of Lords.

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