Court rules in predatory marriage case

Mrs Justice Roberts has handed down her judgment in Re BU [2021] EWCOP 54. This complicated case concerned questions as to mental capacity, undue influence and coercive control.

BU is a 70 year old woman with dementia. She was befriended by a local man named NC who gradually became more involved in her life. BU's family became concerned as to their relationship, especially when they learnt of NC's criminal history.

Matters came to a head in May 2020 when BU's family learnt of sudden changes in respect of her investments and a number of unexpected property purchases. Ian Brownhill was instructed by Katie Webber of Ashfords LLP on behalf of BU's daughter, WU.

Ian quickly secured interim injunctions preventing the continuation of the property purchases, preventing the sale of investments and stopping contact between NC and BU.

When the matter returned to court, BU was represented by Eliza Sharron instructed by Philippa Curran of Odonnells solicitors. Interim orders were continued, a professional deputy appointed and questions as to BU's mental capacity explored. Prior to Eliza going on maternity leave, NC indicated a desire to enter into a civil partnership with BU and the matter was transferred to the High Court.

At the final hearing, Parishil Patel QC was instructed to lead Ian and the court considered five core issues:

  1. Should NC be allowed to reopen the orders made by HHJ Marston in November 2020 in respect of the management of BU's financial affairs ?
  2. Does BU lack capacity to make decisions in relation to her contact with others, including NC ?
  3. If so, what orders should be made ?
  4. Is BU subject to coercive control by NC ?
  5. If so, what orders should be made ?
In her judgment, Roberts J refused to reopen the decisions made by HHJ Marston as to BU's finances. Roberts J accepted the arguments put forward by WU and made an order which prevents BU from entering into a marriage or civil partnership with NC. Likewise, it was ordered that NC ought not contact BU.

The case is featured in The Times here and a number of posts on the Open Justice Court of Protection Project's blog