Sharia phone marriage of autistic man 'invalid'


Three senior appeal judges have refused to recognise a Muslim marriage that took place "over the telephone", even though the union is valid according to sharia law.

They said the union, between a 26-year-old autistic British man, identified only as IC, and a woman in Bangladesh was "potentially highly injurious".

The pair have never met and are unlikely ever to meet.

IC's parents, originating from Bangladesh but resident in England for many years, arranged for him to be married by telephone link to a bride chosen by them in Bangladesh with a view to his new wife, referred to as NK, obtaining a visa and joining him in this country.

The marriage was valid under sharia law and the law of Bangladesh and lawyers for the parents argued that it should therefore be recognised in English law.

But giving judgment in the case, which was brought by Westminster Social and Community Services Department, the Court of Appeal said IC was unable to give valid consent to marriage under English law.

The court heard he does not function above the level of a three-year-old and is said to be highly suggestible and vulnerable. He therefore lacked the capacity to marry and consent to sexual intercourse.

Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Wall and Lady Justice Hallett, said the local authority had been supporting and protecting IC since the age of four.

He received home care five mornings a week before attending a day centre, plus a high level of respite care.

"The role of marriage in the life of one so handicapped is inconceivable in our society, and as a matter of law marriage is precluded," the judge said.

The Muslim ceremony took place in September 2006.

The judge said the marriage arranged by IC's parents was "potentially highly injurious".

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