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Supreme Court deals another blow to the government's plans to prevent forced marriages.

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The Supreme Court held, in a 4-1 decision, that Immigration Rule r.277 breached a migrant's right to a private and family life under Article 8. The government argued that the law fell under the Article 8(2) exemption of being 'necessary in a democratic society' as it helped to prevent forced marriages. However the Supreme Court found this argument unconvincing, concluding that the number of unforced marriages it obstructs vastly exceeds the number of forced marriages it deters. The Supreme Court's decision will undoubtedly mean that the Home Office will need to either scrap or rewrite the current law to make sure that it is compatible with Article 8 rights. However some are wondering why the UK Supreme Court has found this rule to be contrary to Article 8 at all, as other EU countries have a similar or stricter rule in place. Denmark for example requires the spouse to be 24 years of age before they can enter the country with a marriage VISA. This decision comes at the same time as the government's announcement that families wanting to bring spouses or relatives to the UK may have to pay a bond of thousands of pounds in case they end up claiming benefits. The government plans to toughen the rules on migrants from outside the EU who wish to settle in the country, although these measures are likely to be resisted by migrant groups who in 2007 managed to persuade the Labour government to shelve similar plans. Again other countries have similar rules in place, with Denmark requiring people bringing a spouse into the country to pay a bond of £12,000 against any future claims on public funds. The government's plans also include a proposed change in the rules that married partners must prove that their relationship is genuine for 5 years instead of 2 years to be allowed to settle permanently. Further to this there has been discussion about the criminalisation of forced marriages. The current Forced Marriages (Civil Protection) Act 2007 is the government's key tool to protect victims of forced marriages by using court protection orders to prevent families from taking people abroad to be married, seizing passports or intimidating victims. Breaches of a court protection order can result in imprisonment for up to two years. There are mixed views on whether the government should implement these changes, but it appears that the prevention of forced or sham marriages is very much on the political agenda so changes to the law may be seen in the next few years. Gepp & Sons have a team of highly skilled solicitors' specialising in all areas of family law. To arrange a free initial consultation about your family law concerns, please contact Gepp & Sons Family Law Department on 01245 228106 or e-mail paynes@gepp.co.uk. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.