LOCAL AUTHORITY/MARRIAGE: Westminster City Council v IC [2008] EWCA Civ 198

19 MAR 2008

(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Wall and Hallett LJJ; 19 March 2008)

In a case involving a vulnerable adult who lacked the capacity to marry, but who had been married in a Muslim ceremony by telephone to a Bangladeshi woman, the judge had granted a declaration that the marriage was not valid under English law.

The only route to a judicial conclusion that a marriage was void at its inception was a petition for nullity; an application for a declaration that it was void was proscribed by Family Law Act 1986, s 55(1), which had not been drawn to the judge's attention. A marriage based on lack of consent was voidable, not void ab initio. The declaration should instead have stated that the marriage was not recognised as a valid marriage in this jurisdiction. Not every marriage that was valid according to the law of some friendly foreign state was entitled to recognition in the English jurisdiction; refusal of recognition was justified in this case in order to protect the vulnerable adult from potential abuse.

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