Concerns about predatory marriage and relationships are at last getting our attention. Sheree Green, Director of Greenchurch, recently contributed to an excellent BBC Radio File on Four programme that highlighted this particular form of abuse – which you can listen to here: https://lnkd.in/dZt4Ja4N
This programme coincided with the publication of the judgment in WU v BU (by her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor)  EWCOP 54, a case concerning BU, a woman in her 70’s with vascular dementia, believed by her family to have been groomed by NC who they described as “a serial offender who has a history of targeting the vulnerable for financial gain”.
Indeed, the Official Solicitor’s position was that NC was, on the evidence, “a confidence trickster whose long term life style appears to have involved repeatedly inveigling money from vulnerable people through coercive control and, at least on three occasions, blackmail. NC’s criminal record included a 9 year custodial sentence for blackmail offences.
NC had moved in to live with BU in early 2020. In May of that year the police were contacted by a financial organisation concerned that BU was trying to liquidate funds of around £700,000 while a man in the background of the call appeared to be giving her instructions. NC was arrested and bailed with a condition that he did not contact BU, a condition that he breached up to 40 times. He was later arrested for perverting the course of justice.
Court of Protection proceedings determined that BU lacked capacity to manage her own property and finance and a deputy was appointed. Expert capacity reports advised that BU understood she had a close relationship with NC, but struggled to understand and weigh the risks he presented, and did not have capacity to make decisions about contact with him. Later reports found that BU had the capacity to marry however.
In February 2021, the court renewed the caveat the local authority had entered under s29(1) Marriage Act 1949, preventing BU and NC marrying.
NC made it clear that it remained his intention to enter into a civil partnership with BU, “He has expressed that he would not marry [BU] because they have a platonic relationship. [He] states that [they] have an understanding that [NC] would have sexual relationships with other women, although he asserts that he has not been intimate with another woman since [BU] proposed to him”.
In subsequent reports, Professor Dubrow-Marshall went on to identify BU as particularly vulnerable to coercive tactics and undue influence. He referred to a “psychological enmeshment” between BU and NC, resulting in BC becoming completely dependant on and dominated such that her ability to make independent decisions was “severely limited or completely blocked”. The professor did acknowledge “a deep and enduring emotional and psychological bond…..through a very close and intimate (if not overtly sexual) relationship.. BU undoubtedly feels love and affection towards NC and this clearly appears to be reciprocated”.
Sadly, the concerns of her family, the proceedings and the separation of NC from BU since his arrest appeared to have deepened a “trauma bond” between them, leaving BU feeling that her life “is totally in limbo”.
In a written statement to the court BU said, “everyone needs a companion and I had thought I had found mine, everything was sorted and then my family got involved and ruined everything”.
Against the backdrop of these issues, Roberts J made a final order providing that there be no contact between NC and BU, expressed to continue until further order, but subject to any review that may become necessary. A penal notice was to be attached to the order.
Conscious that she was dealing “with a woman who has completely lost her personal autonomy as a result of a total subordination of her free will”, the judge had no hesitation in making a forced marriage protection order and a separate specific injunction preventing NC from attempting to enter into a civil partnership with BU without specific further order of the court, but limited the duration of both, to allow BU the opportunity to engage in therapy, which offered a small hope of enabling BU to gain some insight into her relationship with NC.
Predatory marriage cases can seem to focus on money and lost inheritances. This case focuses on the human cost of such ambiguous relationships that often arise out of loneliness and the natural desire we all have, whatever our age or stage in life, for human companionship. BU had a loving family, but they were not there 24/7 and BU clearly and understandably wanted to share her life with someone else.
The elderly in Japan are turning to social robots to ease their isolation. We believe we need to find a better way for older people to have genuine social connections to prevent the void being increasingly filled by predators such as NC.
Read the full judgment here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2021/54.html