A senior High Court judge has suggested that couples could be committing accidental bigamy after he cancelled 21 divorces organised by a disgraced former barrister.
Sir James Munby, the president of the High Court’s family division, said Khalik Bhatoo used false addresses on the divorce petitions and had forged signatures and filled out forms on at least nine of them.
According to Sir James Munby, the couples were technically still married, even if they had subsequently remarried and had children with a new spouse.
This also means that any later marriages would automatically be null and void.
The cases, which dated from 2006 to 2015, were at various stages of completion, with some only at the petition stage, while others had been finalised. 20 were marriages, while one was a civil partnership.
The case was brought by the Queen’s Proctor who is able to intervene in cases of divorce or probate where dishonesty is suspected.
Sir James 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.”
Mr Bhatoo 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 further found guilty of three offences of professional misconduct in May 2005.