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Right to marry victory for Derry couple

In a judgment on 15 December, the European Court of Human Rights found that the UK's scheme requiring those subject to immigration control to get approval to marry and to pay a sizeable fee to do so breached the right to marry and was discriminatory.

Welcoming the Court's judgment, Anna Morvern, immigration adviser at Law Centre (NI), said 'This is an important victory which shines a light on some of the difficulties faced by those subject to immigration control in Northern Ireland. The landmark ruling from the European Court of Human Rights should ensure that other couples do not face these barriers in the future.'

The case concerned the UK's scheme which required persons subject to immigration control to obtain a certificate of approval to marry outside the Church of England and pay a fee of £295 to do so. The Derry based couple wished to marry in the Catholic Church but were unable to obtain the certificate because of the husband's immigration status and because they could not afford the fee.

In 2006, the House of Lords found that the scheme interfered with the right to marry. The government then amended the scheme but would not waive the fee in this case. The couple finally married in 2008 after friends paid the fee. The European Court has ordered the UK to pay compensation to the couple.

The government has until March 2011 to request a referral to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

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