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R v King

302 words (1 pages) Case Summary

9th Dec 2021 Case Summary Reference this In-house law team

Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law

Legal Case Summary

R v King [1964] 1 QB 285

Mistake on the facts as a defence to a charge of bigamy under Offences Against the Person Act 1861


The defendant had remarried while his previous marriage was still valid. He was prosecuted for bigamy contrary to section 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which states that:

“Whosoever, being married, shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband or wife, whether the second marriage shall have taken place in England or Ireland or elsewhere, shall be guilty of felony…” (OAPA 1861, s.57).

His argument had been that he had entered into the new marriage under the honest mistaken belief that his previous marriage was void.


Whether a genuine mistaken belief as to a fact is a defence to a charge of bigamy under s.57 OAPA 1861.

Decision / Outcome

Mistake can be used successfully as a defence in this context only where the belief is not only honest, but also reasonable – this would negate the mens rea requirement of s.57 OAPA 1861. The court distinguished R v. Wheat & Stocks[1921] 2 K.B 119where even a reasonable belief was not held to be sufficient for a defence (that case was in any event overruled byR v. Gould [1968] 2 Q.B 65 which further entrenched the rule that honest and reasonable belief could amount to a defence to a charge of bigamy). An unreasonable belief does not suffice, inter alia, because it betrays negligence as to the facts on which the belief is based.

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UK law covers the laws and legislation of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Essays, case summaries, problem questions and dissertations here are relevant to law students from the United Kingdom and Great Britain, as well as students wishing to learn more about the UK legal system from overseas.

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