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EDITIONS
Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 18:09 GMT
Murder suspect fights to marry witness
Wedding bands
The wedding plan has aroused prosecutors' suspicions
A murder suspect is fighting for the right to marry the main prosecution witness at his forthcoming trial.

The prisoner has gone to the Court of Appeal to argue that prosecutors are wrong to fear the wedding is a ruse intended to help him escape a guilty verdict.

The High Court made an order delaying the marriage because the witness, who had lived with the prisoner for six years, could legally refuse to give evidence against him if she became his wife.

Although the suspect claims there is no evidence that he will exploit the marriage, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says his fiancée has made it clear that she will no longer testify against him.

'Long chat'

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claims that the couple only decided to get married three weeks after he was arrested.


This couple have lived together for six to seven years and have a child

Alison Foster QC

It said the girlfriend visited the suspect in prison and "they had a very long chat about their past and futures".

Shortly afterwards the suspect asked prison authorities for permission to marry.

His new fiancée told police that she would no longer give evidence for the Crown, even though five statements she gave implicating him in the murder were truthful.

Sole motive

The Court of Appeal must decide whether High Court judge Maurice Kay was right to decide that the Registrar General for Births, Marriages and Deaths could refuse to allow the prison wedding.

Justice Kay said this was possible because there was a "lawful impediment", in that the marriage would enable the couple to pervert the course of justice.

But on Thursday the Registrar claimed that he had an absolute duty under the Marriage Act to issue the certificates - even if he knew that the sole motive was to escape justice.

Alison Foster QC, for the Registrar, told three appeal judges headed by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, that there was no evidence the couple had underhand motives.

She said: "This couple have lived together for six to seven years and have a child.

"She has three children from a previous marriage who all bear his name."

The prisoner also claims that if he had planned a murder and knew his girlfriend could give evidence against him, he would have married her before carrying out the crime.

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