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SK (proposed plaintiff) (an adult) [2004] EWHC 3202 (Fam)

The inherent jurisdiction of the High Court may be relied on by an adult to provide declaratory relief.

Re SK (proposed plaintiff) (an adult) [2004] EWHC 3202 (Fam)

Family Division: Singer J (10 December 2004 and 3 February 2005)

The inherent jurisdiction of the High Court may be relied on by an adult to provide declaratory relief.

This case concerned a young adult British woman whose family came from Bangladesh; and information existed to suggest that she was being held in Bangladesh against her will and might face the prospect of a forced marriage. The Community Liaison Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office requested a solicitor to take action on behalf of the proposed plaintiff, without her knowledge or that of her family.

The judge considered the basis on which he could exercise jurisdiction in this case, and believed that the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court was a sufficiently flexible remedy to evolve in accordance with social needs and social values. Thus, it would be within the court's power to make orders and to give directions designed to ascertain whether or not the proposed plaintiff had been able to exercise her free will in decisions concerning her civil status and her country of residence.

Accordingly, the judge approved an order, annexed to the judgment, requiring attendance of relatives resident in the United Kingdom before a High Court judge, and requesting the assistance of the judicial and administrative authorities in Bangladesh.

Following service of the bench orders on the relatives, the whereabouts of the proposed plaintiff were established, and she conveyed her wish that the proceedings should not continue, maintaining that she had no need of the court's intervention on her behalf; in those circumstances, the proceedings were discontinued. Nevertheless, the judge considered that this action made it clear to relevant professionals and amongst the relevant communities that proceedings such as these were in appropriate situations available, and that the courts were accessible to investigate the circumstances of adults as well as children.

Read the full text of the judgment here