QUEEN V. TOLSON
The jury was found that at the time of the 2nd marriage she in good faith and on reasonable ground and on reasonable grounds believed her husband to be dead:-
By lord coleridge , C.J.huwkins, Stephen ,cave , A.L.smith , Wills Grantham and Charles J.J. ( Denman , filed and Manisty afforded a good defense to the indictment , and that the conviction with wrong.
Case stated by Stephen, .J. and reserved by the court for the consideration of all the judges .
On the reasonable grounds, believed her husband to be dead and therefore remarried.
In fact he was still alive. The court majority held that a BF belief in reasonable grounds as to the husband, a death was a defense to the charge of bigamy.
As Hawkins LJ. Said, it would be unfair to punish someone in the total absence of fault.
Facts Of the Case:-
The appellant and defendant were married in September 1880.
The appellant went missing as the ship he was in had got lost into the sea in December 1881.
The defendant waited for six years for her husband (the appellant) with the hope that he shall return.
Eventually, believing her husband to be dead, the defendant remarries.
Eleven months later the appellant returned and on the knowledge of the remarriage of his wife (the defendant) he filed the appeal of bigamy against her.
It was contended that the defendant had remarried and committed the offence of bigamy.
The respondent contended that she waited for six years and then remarried when her husband did not return without the intention of committing bigamy.
The appeal court said that despite the absence of words such as “knowingly committing bigamy” or “intentionally committing bigamy”, which would have excused her, Ms. Tolson was saved in this situation by an old common law rule. An “honest and reasonable belief” in the existence of circumstances that, if true, would make the accused’s acts innocent, was a proper defense, the court ruled.
An exemplary instance of an appeal court using the common law inventively to prevent a manifest injustice. Martha Tolson received word that her husband, who had deserted her, had been lost at sea during a voyage to America. Five years after she last saw him, believing him to be dead, she remarried. But her first husband later returned from the US very much alive and she was prosecuted for bigamy. Under Section 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which defined the crime, she did not have to have committed bigamy knowingly or intentionally for it to have been a crime. On the face of it, it was enough for a conviction for her to have remarried within seven years of her husband having deserted her. However, her conviction was quashed. The appeal court said that despite the absence of words such as “knowingly committing bigamy” or “intentionally committing bigamy”, which would have excused her, MsTolson was saved in this situation by an old common law rule. An “honest and reasonable belief” in the existence of circumstances that, if true, would make the accused’s acts innocent, was a proper defence, the court ruled.