The case of the ac­ci­den­tal bigamists

Weekend Herald - - World -

Cou­ples may be com­mit­ting acci den­tal bigamy, a se­nior High Court judge has sug­gested as he can­celled 21 di­vorces or­gan­ised by a dis­graced for­mer bar­ris­ter.

James Munby, the pres­i­dent of the High Court’s fam­ily di­vi­sion, said Kha­lik Bha­too had used false ad­dresses on the di­vorce pe­ti­tions and had forged sig­na­tures and filled out forms on at least nine of them.

He said the cou­ples were tech­ni­cally still mar­ried — even if they had sub­se­quently re­mar­ried and had chil­dren with some­one else.

The case, brought by the Queen’s Proc­tor, who can in­ter­vene in cases of di­vorce or pro­bate where dis­hon­esty is sus­pected, also means that any later mar­riages would au­to­mat­i­cally be null and void.

Munby said: “Un­der­ly­ing pro­ceed­ings were tainted by de­cep­tion in re­la­tion to the ad­dress of ei­ther the pe­ti­tioner or the re­spon­dent, and the de­crees, where de­crees have been granted, were ob­tained by de­cep­tion.”

Bha­too, who Munby de­scribed as “the ar­chi­tect of these frauds”, was called to the bar in 1999 and was dis­barred in 2006 af­ter be­ing con­victed of falsely claim­ing hous­ing ben­e­fit and coun­cil tax.

He was also found guilty of three of­fences of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct in May 2005.

The court heard that he had told the 21 cou­ples that they should fraud­u­lently use one of two ad­dresses as their reg­is­tered ad­dress on the di­vorce pe­ti­tion, and had used a Chancery Lane cham­bers which no longer ex­ists on some of the papers.

The two prop­er­ties were at the time owned by fam­ily mem­bers or as­so­ciates of Bha­too, the court heard.

None of the cou­ples had re­turned a for­mal an­swer to let­ters sent by the court in­form­ing them of the case, the judge said.

Un­der the law some­one can have a de­fence to bigamy if they gen­uinely be­lieved they were free to re­marry.

Tele­graph Group Ltd

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