Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on Some are essential to make the site work, some help us to understand how we can improve your experience, and some are set by third parties. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Skip to content

John M Burton QC appears in landmark Court of Appeal decision

John represented Dr Yilkes Bala at his trial which concluded in December 2013.

Dr Bala had entered into a polygamous marriage with his second wife in Nigeria. They were both charged with the offence of conspiracy to breach certain immigration rules. John argued that section 2(2)(a) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 should apply to a polygamous marriage. (Section 2(2)(a) states that person cannot be convicted of an offence of conspiracy committed solely with their spouse.) The Crown Court judge disagreed and Dr Bala was convicted. John drafted the grounds of appeal and represented Dr Bala at the Court of Appeal hearing, arguing, (paragraph 32 of the judgment), “Mr Burton went on to submit, and eloquently so, that those who are married under polygamous marriages are not to be, differentiated from those married under monogamous marriages.”

The Court of Appeal agreed that section 2(2)(a) of the Criminal Law Act, “extends to a spouse under a polygamous marriage,” but added that the marriage had to be one, “recognised under English law as valid.”

The court concluded that Dr Bala was domiciled in the UK at the time of the marriage and therefore under section 11(d) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 his marriage was void and he could not rely upon the section. Accordingly, Dr Bala’s appeal was dismissed.”

The full decision is available at Crimeline Complete issue 36 of 2016.