A Kenyan man accused of marrying a woman in Jersey while still married to another in Kenya has been acquitted of bigamy charges.
The Royal Court in Jersey ruled that the case against Douglas Ndenga Akhonya should be dropped, saying the prosecution failed to provide an expert in Kenyan law to determine whether the accused had already been properly married in his native country.
The 41-year-old man had been charged with bigamy, the criminal offense of marrying a person while already being married to another. He faced a second count of knowingly providing false information for the purposes of intended marriage.
The court heard that Akhonya married a woman in St Helier in July 2015, claiming he was single but a Kenyan woman came forward saying the two tied the knot in 2008 and they were still married at the time of his marriage in Jersey.
Even though a civil servant from a marriage registry in Kenya produced a document certifying the marriage, the court determined that he was not a professional legal expert.
Some forms of marriage in Kenya are polygamous and allow a man to have more than one wife.
Akhonya told the court that he had not been properly married to the Kenyan woman but had entered into a ‘customary law union’, an arrangement under Kenyan law that would ensure he would have access to their son.
“In order to establish its case, the Crown must prove that it was a monogamous first marriage and expert evidence will be needed. In its absence, there would be a submission of no case to answer because there would be no evidence fit to put before the jury on that important prerequisite for establishing guilt,” Commissioner Sir William Bailhache of the Royal Court said in his judgement.
The prosecution sought more time to obtain evidence from a Kenyan legal expert, but Sir William said: “The evidence now sought to be admitted was always a necessary part of the prosecution case and should have been obtained much earlier.”
“Formal verdicts of not guilty are entered on the indictment,” he concluded.