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X City Council v MB, NB and MAB [2006] EWHC 168 (Fam)

The capacity of an adult with autistic spectrum disorder to marry.

Facts

M, aged 25, had severe autistic spectrum disorder. He was cared for by P, who had arranged for him to meet his cousin in order to be married. The cousin had been refused entry into the UK, so P arranged for M to travel to Pakistan. P was advised that a long flight may be detrimental to M’s wellbeing, but appeared to wish to continue with the plan. The Council obtained emergency injunctions seizing M’s passport and sought to have full injunctions made preventing his travel. All parties conceded that M did not have the capacity to marry and P argued that injunctions were unnecessary because undertakings not to take M to Pakistan or cause him to be married could be given.

Issue

(1) When could the court intervene in circumstances such as this? (2) What would be the effect of a marriage made where a party to it could not give consent? (3) Should the emergency injunctions be made full injunctions?

Held

(1)  The court held that it was able to exercise its protective role where there was a real possibility of harm to a vulnerable adult. This was particularly the case where taking the relevant steps gave the court the opportunity to prevent serious and irreparable harm occurring in the future. (2) The court made a declaration that any marriage entered into by M in any country would not be held to a be a valid marriage in English law because M lacked the capacity to marry. (3) Injunctions were not necessary on these facts because P’s family were honourable and therefore undertakings not to take M to Pakistan or to cause him to marry were sufficient. The court was also aware that M’s condition might improve in the future and that, if this occurred, he may then have the required capacity to marry.


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