MARRIAGE/ RIGHT TO MARRY: O'Donaghue v UK (App No 34848/07)

14 FEB 2011

(European Court of Human Rights; 14 December 2010)

The Applicant was a Nigerian national who arrived in Northern Ireland in 2004 and claimed asylum in 2006. He met a woman in November 2004 and in May 2006 they agreed to marry. However he was unable to qualify under the first version of a statutory scheme requiring the Secretary of State's permission to marry.

The scheme was successfully challenged in the House of Lords for being incompatible with ECHR, mainly because it did not apply to those couples seeking to marry in the Church of England. A subsequent version of the statutory scheme enabled the couple to marry. The applicants complained that the scheme breached their right to marry under Article 12 alone, and in conjunction with Article 14.

Complaints under Article 12 and Article 14 upheld.  The government's system for preventing sham marriages of people subject to immigration control breached the right to marry and was discriminatory.

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