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MARRIAGE: NS v MI [2006] EWHC 1646 (Fam)

Date:17 JUL 2006

(Family Division; Munby J; 5 July 2006)[2006] FLR (forthcoming)

Granting a decree of nullity on the basis that the purported marriage was voidable for duress, the court reviewed the law concerning the abomination of forced marriage. If the victim of forced marriage were a child, the court would have full recourse to the full breadth of the wardship jurisdiction; if the victim were a vulnerable adult, the court would have recourse to the closely comparable adult inherent jurisdiction. When the court was able to intervene in time, it would make orders restraining the celebration of the marriage and, where appropriate, preventing the victim from being taken abroad for the purpose of being married. When the victim had already been taken abroad, the court would make orders designed to ensure the victim's repatriation. After repatriation further protective orders might be needed to prevent further attempts at forced marriage or to protect the victim from the risk of victimisation or retaliation. If the court could not intervene in time the court must attempt, wherever possible to remedy the consequences of such a gross transgression of an individual's integrity, the primary remedy being a suit for nullity, not a suit for divorce. It was important that public funding be made available so that such cases could be brought before the court, and appropriate that such cases be heard in the High Court. Forced marriage almost invariably involved the commission of very serious criminal offences by those participating in the arrangements, including serious sexual offences if the marriage were consummated by force. Forced marriage would also expose the perpetrators to civil remedies for such torts as trespass to the person and false imprisonment.