Man cleared of bigamy after first marriage was later declared null

A man from Rabat has been cleared of the crime of bigamy after a court heard that his first marriage had later been annulled, in a case that will cause embarrassment to the public registry

A man from Rabat has been cleared of the crime of bigamy after a court heard that his first marriage had later been annulled, in a case that will cause embarrassment to the public registry.

Charles Micallef had been charged before the Court of Magistrates in 2014, accused of contracting a second marriage whilst already legally married – a criminal offence punishable by up to four years imprisonment. He was also accused of swearing a false oath and relapsing.

In 2015, the court had been informed that he had been legally separated from his Maltese wife, but not divorced. At that stage, the defence had objected to the production of the woman as a witness as the two were spouses.

A representative of the Public Registry had taken the witness stand and testified that the accused had been legally separated from the Maltese woman in the year 2000, but had gone to them to apply for marriage banns in March 2014, beginning the process to marry a second time. The witness had exhibited a declaration, signed by the accused, stating that he was not married.

The Director of the Public Registry had then sent an email to the police in October, informing them that Micallef had married a Russian woman whilst still married to the Maltese woman.

Asked by defence counsel Arthur Azzopardi whether any checks had been carried out before the issuing of the banns, the witness replied that there might have been an oversight by the official in charge of doing so. It emerged from the representative’s testimony that the registry had access to two databases on individuals’ details.

But a Marriage Officer who testified subsequently told the court that no information indicating that the man had been married was available on this database.

The man’s first marriage was annulled in 2018.

As the first marriage was null, said the court, this meant that the man could not be found guilty of bigamy.

“Although when the accused married for the second time, his first marriage was still in force as he had only been legally separated and never obtained a divorce, the fact that later the first marriage was later declared null, [means] the accused cannot be found guilty…the first marriage cannot be considered as a valid and legitimate marriage.”

On the second charge, of swearing a false oath, the court noted that the public registry official was not proven to be a person authorised to administer oaths under the law.

Magistrate Astrid May Grima cleared the man of all charges.

Lawyer Rene Darmanin was also defence counsel.

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