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24.05.16

Polygamous Marriage and Criminal Conspiracy

In Bala and others [2016] EWCA 560 the Court of Appeal was concerned with the question of polygamous marriage in the context of criminal conspiracy. Specifically, whether the husband and wife in a polygamous marriage are protected by section 2(2) Criminal Law Act 1977 which precludes the finding of guilt against them in a criminal conspiracy (where they are the only conspirators). The case involved an alleged conspiracy arising out of the creation of false identities through a business owned and run by the first defendant. Whilst he lived in the UK he had married his second wife in Nigeria whilst still married to his first (who in fact was another defendant on a different count). The judge at first instance had rejected submissions that there was no case to answer because the fact they were married polygamously precluded them from seeking the protection of section 2(2). Whilst the Court of Appeal agreed, thereby dismissing the appeal, it did rule that had the defendants been polygamously married whilst resident in Nigeria, they could have sought the protection of section 2(2) because such marriage (by virtue of being conducted by non UK residents) would have been recognised as being valid.

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