Select Page

Leading Bigamy Sentence Case Law

Since cases are only reported if they hit the media or are appealed there are not many to draw on.  Perhaps the most recent and relevant appeal is that of Stark which concludes that a fine is the most appropriate sentence for someone charged with bigamy.  Newspapers often report of 6 month suspended sentences.  What is totally abhorrent about this case (to any decent person at least) is the way the man was arrested and held in custody by the police whilst attending his son’s funeral.  Here the law and police enforcers of it have left all realms of reasonable and civil morality.  Until the law is changed such crazy miscarriages of justice will continue.  In this case none of the “victims” of his bigamy had complained or bothered to report him in fact quite the contrary they seemed very happy to continue the arrangement, so how were they in reality victims?  The truth of the matter is given in para 18  “he failed to complete the paperwork necessary…”.  This is the true heart of this “offence” simply that one of failing to complete the paperwork for the (near communist) state, nothing to do with morality or real crimes despite the initial judge dressing it up as a crime of a “web of deception”.

Since the website hosting it seems to stopped working we are copying an extract here.

Neutral Citation Number: [2007] EWCA Crim 254

No. 2007/00554/A1

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL
CRIMINAL DIVISION

 

Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand
London
WC2A 2LL

13 February 2007

B e f o r e :

THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF ENGLAND AND WALES
(Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers)
THE PRESIDENT OF THE QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
(Sir Igor Judge)
and
THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL, CRIMINAL DIVISION
(Lord Justice Latham)

____________________

R E G I N A

– v –

TRIGGER ALAN MIKE SEED

PHILIP STARK

MR A COMPTON appeared on behalf of THE APPLICANT TRIGGER SEED

MR A BLAKE appeared on behalf of THE APPELLANT PHILIP STARK 
____________________

HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
____________________

Crown Copyright ©

Tuesday 13 February 2007

The Appeal of Philip Stark

16. On 17 March 2005, at North East Hampshire Magistrates’ Court, the appellant pleaded guilty and was committed to the Crown Court for sentence under section 3 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. On 8 December 2006, at the Crown Court at Winchester, before His Honour Judge Cutler, he was sentenced as follows: for an offence of bigamy, six months’ imprisonment; and for failing to surrender to bail, three months’ imprisonment consecutive. He appeals against sentence by leave of the single judge.

 

17. The bare facts that were opened by Mr Brown for the prosecution to the judge were that the appellant had married a woman called Marjorie Stark on 8 December 1990 in Southend and they lived together in Essex. The appellant then started working in Farnborough and bought a property there, where he stayed during the week, returning to his wife at weekends. His work took him to Russia. His wife discovered evidence that he was in correspondence with a Russian woman. When she confronted him with this, he confessed that he had gone to Russia to see a woman called Marina. He subsequently told his wife that he had married this woman in Russia.

 

18. Despite this, the appellant continued to live with his wife, at least from time to time, but Marina plainly came to England, for on 19 April 2003 he was recorded as having married her in a civil ceremony at Farnborough. The police became aware of this. Having initially prevaricated, the appellant subsequently admitted that he had gone through a ceremony of marriage with Marina when he was still married to Marjorie. He said that he had failed to complete the paperwork necessary to end his marriage to Marjorie.

 

19. The appellant was due to surrender to his bail on 8 April 2005, but did not do so. He had gone to live in the United States, but returned to this country when his son died in order to attend his funeral. He was arrested at the funeral on 22 November 2006 and remanded in custody.

 

20. No evidence was put before the judge from either Marjorie or Marina; nor was either present in court. The judge was understandably perplexed by this, but Mr Brown explained that there had been a lack of support from both women in relation to the investigation. It was Marjorie’s sister who had reported the appellant’s behaviour to the police. Such background information as the prosecution were able to provide came from her.

 

21. The judge gave the following reasons for the sentences that he imposed:

 

“I have obviously been listening very carefully to all that has been said on your behalf, and you have much to thank Mr Blake for but, at the heart of all this, it is not a question of you being driven by love but you being dishonest. If there were those problems with Marjorie Stark, your true wife, then it is quite simple for you not to have gone through this ceremony of marriage in this country on 19 April 2003. That is quite the simple way, but you nevertheless did; you committed a criminal offence which undermines the status and legality of marriage which is an important institution, whatever anyone else may say about it, in this country, and then when you were found out you ran and left the jurisdiction, and those are serious matters, not something which a court can simply overlook in your case.

 

I bear in mind of course you are a man of 51 years of ago who has a good character, nothing known against you in the past. It is quite clear to me that you are a man of ability and intelligence and clearly a man who has got himself into a tangled web of deception really through your own fault, which gives you no credit at all.

 

It is difficult for me to have details about the effect of any injury you may have caused principally to your first wife, but I accept what is said within the prosecution papers from the prosecution witnesses that clearly she does not seek to get involved in this ….

 

It seems to me in the circumstances that you present me with that there is no other alternative other than a custodial sentence because in my judgment courts must be seen, as I have already said, to uphold the law and the legality of marriage and to ensure that someone leaving the jurisdiction to avoid the consequences of the crime should when you come back into the jurisdiction be punished for that.”

 

22. These sentencing remarks might suggest that the judge considered that the offence of bigamy was so serious that it must inevitably attract a custodial sentence and that the circumstances of the offence bear solely on the length of that sentence. That is not the case and we do not believe that the judge proceeded on this basis, for Mr Blake, who appeared for the appellant before the judge and appears today, confirms that his submissions to the judge were those that he has placed before us, and they include the leading case on sentencing for bigamy: R v Crowhurst (unreported), referred to in Thomas on Sentencing at B4-43A01. Waller LJ is there recorded as saying:

 

“Sentences for bigamy must vary very much with the particular circumstances of the case. In many cases of bigamy it is possible to deal with the case by some sentence which does not involve deprivation of liberty. In other cases there may be a clear deception which has resulted in some injury to the woman concerned in which an immediate custodial sentence must be passed, and the length of that sentence must depend greatly on the seriousness of the injury that has been done.”

 

23. The judge referred to the appellant having involved himself in a tangled web of deception. In giving leave to appeal to this court the single judge observed:

 

“On the facts of this case the bigamy seems to me to involve rather more folly than injurious deception.”

 

What were those facts?

 

24. The appellant Philip Stark is a 51 year old American citizen of previous impeccable character. He met his wife Marjorie in the United States in the 1980s and returned with her to the United Kingdom where they married in the Southend Registry Office on 8 December 1990. At that time the appellant was aged 35 and Marjorie Miller was a divorcee aged 51.

 

25. Their relationship deteriorated and the appellant obtained employment away from his home in Essex with a company based in Farnborough. In February 2001 he purchased a flat in Farnborough where he lived during the week, although he often returned to his wife in Essex at the weekends.

 

26. In the summer of 2002 the appellant commenced his relationship with Marina. She was a Russian national. He made several trips to Russia during the course of their relationship. In February 2003, whilst in Russia, the couple announced their intention to marry and Marina moved to the United Kingdom.

 

27. On 19 April 2003 the appellant and Marina went through a purported marriage ceremony at the Basingstoke Registry. Thereafter they lived together as if they were man and wife.

 

28. Marjorie had become aware of the appellant’s new relationship during one of his trips to Russia. He continued to return to stay with her every other weekend in Essex and the couple were still holidaying together in 2004. Marina was aware of Marjorie, but understood that the couple were divorced. That latter fact is one that the appellant has himself admitted. It is the only (albeit significant) element of deception in this case.

 

29. Neither woman made any complaint about the situation but in the summer of 2004 someone reported the matter to the police and the appellant was arrested. He made admissions in interview and pleaded guilty to bigamy on his first appearance at the magistrates’ court on 17 March 2005. He was committed to the Crown Court for sentence. He panicked at the prospect of a lengthy custodial sentence and fled to America.

 

30. The appellant had commenced divorce proceedings in 2002 and obtained a decree nisi prior to his marriage to Marina. However, he had abandoned these proceedings before obtaining a decree absolute following a diagnosis that Marjorie was suffering from breast cancer. He did not wish to proceed with a divorce while she was in this fragile condition.

 

31. Those facts do not deserve the description “a tangled web of deception”. This was not one of the more serious cases of bigamy. Nor, as the judge was careful to ascertain, was it a case of conduct designed to evade immigration restrictions. Whether this case crossed the custody threshold depended perhaps on the significance of the deception of Marina. As to that, the subsequent rather extraordinary history suggests that this was not of great significance. Here the facts of the offence merge into personal mitigation.

 

32. When the appellant fled to the United States he took both Marjorie and Marina with him. He and Marina set up home together in Oklahoma and Marjorie lived not far away. The appellant continued to sustain both women financially. He continued to work as a computer engineer in the company that had employed him in the United Kingdom. Marjorie accompanied him back to the United Kingdom for the funeral of his son and her stepson. Although no letter from Marjorie had reached the court, the judge was informed of an attendance note in which the defence solicitors had recorded a lengthy telephone call from Marjorie two days prior to the sentencing hearing in which she expressed her deep concern for the outcome. Marina wrote to the appellant in prison, expressing her love for him and her eagerness to see him again.

 

33. There is the further important element of personal mitigation that the appellant was arrested at the funeral of his much loved son, who had died in particularly tragic circumstances.

 

34. The circumstances that we have described significantly reduce the appropriate sentence for this offence. It did not demand a custodial sentence; an alternative should have been considered. The choice of the alternative was not, however, straightforward as the appellant had moved his residence to the United States and was only in the country for his son’s funeral. He appears, however, to be a man of some substance. Had the charge of bigamy been the only one with which the judge had to deal, we consider that a substantial fine would probably have been the most suitable disposal.

 

35. However, the judge also had to sentence the appellant for failing to surrender to his bail. When the appellant was committed to the Crown Court for sentence the appellant concluded, not unreasonably, that he risked a substantial prison sentence. In these circumstances he took advantage of an offer of a job in the United States and left this country with the deliberate intention of evading justice. This was a serious bail offence, although the sentence that he was evading should not have been the custodial sentence that he apprehended. It posed a particularly difficult sentencing exercise for the judge.

 

36. Mr Blake conceded that, when the two sentences for which the appellant fell to be sentenced were considered together, a custodial sentence was appropriate and, in the unusual circumstances of this case, common sense, if not principle, supports the approach of considering a sentence which reflects the overall criminality of the appellant’s behaviour. Sentences for breach of bail are currently receiving consideration by the Sentencing Guidelines Council and the facts of this case are so unusual that it is not an appropriate vehicle for attempting to lay down principle.

 

37. In these circumstances we have decided to approach this case by asking whether the appellant has already served long enough to reflect his offending or whether he should serve a further period of imprisonment. We have particular regard to the hardship of being taken into prison from the funeral of his son, as well as to the adverse effect of the overcrowded conditions that he is likely to have experienced. Our conclusion is that we should quash the sentence of six months’ imprisonment and substitute a sentence that will result in his immediate result. That sentence will be three months’ imprisonment, to be served concurrently with the three month sentence imposed for the breach of bail.