Bigamy is less of a “crime” than homosexuality
Few would question today the disgusting treatment of Alan Turing, one of Britain’s most brilliant heroes, by the UK’s wonderful criminal justice system. We can see now just how evil some of puritanical laws passed in the nineteenth century can be. The pardon is welcome albeit rather late in coming but what about the other 75,000 people also convicted by the UK courts of conducting criminal acts of homosexuality who remain to receive justice and be pardoned too? Chris Grayling MP shouldn’t just stop there he should look at other “crimes” that people have been wrongly convicted of by centuries old laws, laws that are just as ridiculous and even more illogical and immoral than the one Alan Turing was prosecuted under – and there is no better example of this than bigamy. To be given a 6 month sentence for this in 2014 (see cases elsewhere on this site) is equally as bad as how Alan Turing was treated 50 years ago.
Turing was prosecuted under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 which modified and extended the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, he could have been given 10 years in penal servitude (cf to the sentence of 7 years for bigamy in the same Act. Before this Act it was the death penalty for homosexual acts!) This very same 1861 Act is what is used today against “paperwork bigamists” – not for committing actual bigamy (as most bigamists never bother to fill in the paperwork and therefore commit no crime and are never prosecuted) but against those who for whatever reason don’t or can’t get their divorce certificate before remarrying. Whereas this Act was used and applied to those appearing to commit acts of buggery when it comes to bigamy it was and remains inconsistent. With bigamy it was not the act of bigamy that was the offence ie living with more than one sexual partner simultaneously, it was not having the right piece of paper before marrying again.
Those prosecuted for bigamy are not prosecuted for the deception that they might engage in with their multiple partners, as tasteless as that may be, since that is not a criminal offence. They are simply prosecuted for not having the divorce certificate before signing the marriage register again. We call them bigamists as it sounds much more prejorative, nasty and serious but the irony is that most people convicted of bigamy aren’t actually involved in bigamy in any way. I suppose it is convenient to keep it since we’d have to give them a random stupid name like the SORN offence. Since the divorce laws these days make getting a divorce so long and costly the legal system is actually making the situation harder for those who bother to sign the government’s marriage register in the first place, further devaluing marriage. Why on earth bother in the first place?
What should be the moral offence here? Failing to have the right piece of government paper at the right time or the deception and lying to of trusted partners? The answer is obvious and this is exactly why this stupid law should be abolished immediately. We should stop criminalising, fining and imprisoning innocent citizens whose “offence” is much less than that of Alan Turing but who are being treated today in a similarly disgusting way (albeit without the chemical castration) by the police and criminal justice system. Whilst it is laudable that Chris Grayling MP has finally righted the wrongs applied to Alan Turing he should stop being such a hypocrite and turn his attention to scrapping the more perverse laws of bigamy that still stand on the statute books and are used regularly and randomly against our citizens. And while he is at could he also grant a pardon to all those so called bigamist “criminals” that have been created by the system over the decades?