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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 07:21 GMT
Marriage licence blunder payouts
Wedding ring
Each couple is to receive 150
Newlyweds who feared they were not legally married after a licensing blunder are to receive a share of 30,000 in compensation.

Havering Council in east London is to pay 150 to each of the 93 couples who were wed despite an approved venue's licence being out of date.

The ceremonies took place at the Langtons Wedding Rooms in Hornchurch between October 2004 and March 2005.

It was not until June 2006 that the High Court ruled the marriages valid.

Local Government Ombudsman Tony Redmond said the award recognised the distress sparked by the doubt cast by Havering's "wholly avoidable" failure.

We didn't know where to turn
Bride Sandra Killion

"This meant that for some of these couples memories of their wedding day were anything but happy," he said in a report on the issue.

Sandra Killion, one of the brides affected, told BBC News she was shocked when she found out her marriage might not be legal.

"I thought it was an April Fool's joke," she said.

"It was the icing on the cake to a certain extent because, we'd lost our wedding photos and Martin [the groom] was recovering from cancer and then we had this on top, and it was just a mammoth task.

"We didn't know where to turn."

A total of 13 complaints were made to the ombudsman from couples who claimed the licensing problem had caused unnecessary distress.

Initially Havering Council did not take any action after legal advisors told them the marriages were valid.

Test case

Mr Redmond said: "The council's reassurance that there was not a problem did not allay the fears and anxieties, as that assurance came from the body that had been trusted to marry them legally in the first place."

After reconsidering, the council decided to support a test case in the High Court.

Mr Redmond said although this was an appropriate response the council's failure to renew the premises licence was down to maladministration.

The council, which has improved its renewal procedures, agreed to make the payments.

A couple affected by the blunder speak out


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