Rex v Earl Russell: HL 1901

Earl Russell was charged with an offence under section 57, namely ‘Whosoever being married shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband or wife, whether the second marriage shall have taken place in England or Ireland or elsewhere, shall be guilty of felony.’ He was alleged to have married for a second time in Nevada in the United States of America, when his first wife was alive. It was argued on his behalf that s57 should be construed as if it prohibited only bigamous marriages occurring within the King’s dominions, upon the footing that prima facie an English statute should not be taken to apply to acts committed beyond the King’s dominions unless expressly saying so.
Held: The defence failed. A marriage in Nevada may constitute statutory bigamy punishable in England. The jurisdiction of the Imperial Parliament in the eye of a British Court extends to all persons on British territory whether foreigners or not, and to all British subjects whoever they may be; and in a British Court the meaning of an Imperial Act will be understood accordingly.
That he honestly believed his divorce valid and that he was free to remarry, was not a defence and merely went in mitigation of punishment.


[1901] AC 446, 17 TLR 685


Offences Against the Person Act 1861 57


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedManuel and Others v Attorney-General; Noltcho and Others v Attorney-General ChD 7-May-1982
The plaintiffs were Indian Chiefs from Canada. They complained that the 1982 Act which granted independence to Canada, had been passed without their consent, which they said was required. They feared the loss of rights embedded by historical . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Family

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.241374