In the matter of twenty-one irregular divorces
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| MARCO LO GRASSO
|- and –
|- and -
and twenty other petitions
Mr Simon Murray (instructed by the Government Legal Department) for the Queen's Proctor
Hearing date: 10 October 2017
Crown Copyright ©
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division :
"THE QUEEN'S PROCTOR intervening in these suits
(i) requires the Petitioner and/or Respondent in each case to show cause why any decrees of divorce pronounced herein on various dates should not be set aside and the petitions dismissed;
(ii) requires the Petitioner and/or Respondent to show cause why and how the decrees could be properly made upon proper consideration of the material facts
1 The Queen's Proctor is entitled to intervene in divorce proceedings by operation of section 8 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. There is clear authority to the effect that the Queen's Proctor may intervene after a void decree absolute: Ali Ebrahim v Ali Ebrahim (Queen's Proctor Intervening)  1 WLR 1336.
2 The Queen's Proctor seeks an order to set aside any decrees made in any of the petitions listed in the schedule hereto and to dismiss all 21 petitions herein by reason of reliance upon the decision of the then President in the matter of Moynihan v Moynihan  1 FLR 59 at 67, following the decision of Denning LJ (as he then was) in Lazarus Estates Ltd v Beasley  1 QB 702, 712 namely that all the decrees had been obtained by deception must be set aside as a matter of public policy."
"3 The Queen's Proctor avers that there has been deception in each of the 21 petitions because it appears that Mr Khalik Bhatoo ("the Third Party") was responsible for making all 21 of the divorce applications and may also have been involved in the signature process of some of the petitions and some of the acknowledgement of services in response to those petitions. The Third Party is a disbarred barrister, who was disbarred by an order of the Council of the Inns of Court which took effect on 1st October 2006. One of the charges for which he was disbarred related to a conviction of fraud against the Third Party in 2003 in which the Third Party had forged a tenancy agreement in order to claim housing benefit.
4 In all the petitions one or other of the parties to the proceedings claimed to be resident at some point at either 73 or 75 West End Road, Southall UB1 1JQ ("the address"). Land Registry records demonstrate that that the register of the title to 73 and 75 West End Road at the material time was in the family name of Bhatoo, as Audrey Ayessiah Bhatoo is the registered owner of 73 West End Road and 75 West End Road is registered in the name of Claire Ayessiah Bhatoo. These persons are believed to be family members and/or connected to the Third Party.
5 Given the timing of the pleaded periods of alleged residency it seems highly unlikely that the claims of the parties in the petitions to reside at the addresses in West End Road can be correct. It would appear therefore that none of the parties to the petitions resided at the address as claimed in the divorce petitions. This contention is supported by information from one of the petitioners herein. On 30 November 2016 Asma Kausar, the petitioner in BV15D18675, made contact by telephone with the Bury St Edmonds County Court. This information was passed to the police and on 2 December 2016 she spoke to DC Tariq Ahmed. Ms Kausar confirmed to DC Ahmed that the Third Party had told her to put down 73/75 West End Road as her address notwithstanding that she did not live there, as he would then be able to deal with the court and paperwork and would not need to keep bothering her.
6 Further an expert Forensic Document Examiner, Nicola Thomas, has concluded that there is evidence to support the proposition that the Third Party completed and/or signed the forms in these petitions. The Queen's Proctor relies in this regard upon the contents of the witness statement of Nicola Thomas dated 19 April 2017 which is appended to this Plea.
7 It also appears that the Third Party administered the oath and stamped "BHATOO" in three of the cases, ostensibly at "Chancery Chambers, 74 Chancery Lane" and on a date following the Third Party's disbarment on 1 October 2006. Further police enquiries noted that these chambers no longer exist. The court files for these petitions also contained cheques for court fees connected to the Third Party's personal account which, according to the expert evidence of Nicola Thomas, were written and signed by the Third Party in three of the cases."
I should add that the witness statement of Ms Thomas dated 19 April 2017 referred to in paragraph 6 of the Plea has exhibited to it an earlier witness statement by Ms Thomas dated 25 July 2016.
"8 It is therefore averred that any decrees obtained in the petitions herein were obtained by deception and the underlying proceedings were tainted by deception. Accordingly any certificates or decrees thereby obtained should be should be set aside and, in any event, each of the petitions should be dismissed.
9 It is long established in law that a Plea by the Queen's Proctor seeking to rescind a decree does not require evidence where no answer is made to that plea: Clutterbuck v Clutterbuck and Reynolds (Queen's Proctor Showing Cause)  105 SJ 1012, following inter alia the cases of Sheldon v Sheldon (Queen's Proctor intervening) (1865) 4 Sw & Tr 75 (English Reports Vol 164) and Crowden v Crowden (King's Proctor showing cause) (1906) 23 TLR 143. These principles were recently re-stated and approved by the President in Re 180 Italian Divorces, sub nom Rapisarda v Colladon ("Italian divorces case")  EWFC 1406;  1 FLR 584. The Queen's Proctor will rely upon this principle in relation to any petition where no answer is filed to this plea in accordance with the directions made by the Court.
THE QUEEN'S PROCTOR THEREFORE PRAYS:
(1) That the Petitioners and/or Respondents to the petitions herein show cause why any decrees made should not be set aside and the petitions not dismissed, failing which such decrees should be set aside and the petitions dismissed;
(2) That the court makes other such orders as are appropriate in the circumstances;
(3) That such of the Petitioners and/or Respondents, and/or the Third Party, as the court may think fit, be ordered to pay the costs of the Queen's Proctor of, and incidental to, this intervention."
i) there is conclusive support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo's is the writing on both petitioner and respondent documents in nine cases;
ii) there is strong support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo's is the writing on both petitioner and respondent documents in two cases; and
iii) there is moderate support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo's is the writing on both petitioner and respondent documents in another case.
That evidence, which I have no hesitation in accepting, is striking.
"The signature on the Divorce Petition does not appear to be my signature. I do not recall signing it. I always sign in capital letters and the Divorce Petition is signed in lowercase. I attach a copy of my passport … and my Photocard Driving Licence … to confirm my signature."
One does not need to be an expert to see that the signature on the Divorce Petition looks nothing like the signatures on the passport and Driving Licence or, for that matter, the signature to Mrs Bi's statement. So in this case the Petition gave a false address for the petitioner and the signature on the Petition was forged.
i) on 4 October 2017, an undated statement of Sonia Shaikh, a relative of Mrs Bi; attached to that statement is a copy of Mrs Bi's statement which, according to Ms Shaikh, was given to her by Mrs Bi, but it appears in fact to be a copy of the redacted statement sent by the Queen's Proctor to Mr Bhatoo;
ii) on 6 October 2017, an undated statement of Mr Bhatoo, referring to what was described as "the statement of Mr Patel of today's date [sic]"; and
iii) also on 6 October 2017, an unsigned document described as "Skeleton Arguements [sic] by a former lawyer working at West End Road Office" who is not identified in the document but is, I assume, the Mr Patel referred to in Mr Bhatoo's statement.
"There is nothing in the law, act and rules in which a party is restricted to use a provided address as many times as he would like to file a petition of divorce.
… all these decrees have been made legally by a court of justice and cannot set aside [sic] only because the same address was used to file the petitions.
It is submitted that there is nothing in the law that prevent [sic] any person to file divorce petitions using the same addresses."
i) the petitions listed in Part A of the Schedule are dismissed;
ii) in relation to the petitions listed in Part B of the Schedule, all decrees nisi and certificates are set aside and the petitions are dismissed;
iii) in relation to the petitions listed in Part C of the Schedule, all decrees absolute, decrees nisi and certificates are set aside and the petitions are dismissed.
i) The Queen's Proctor was to file and serve on Mr Bhatoo a statement of costs for summary assessment by 22 October 2017.
ii) Mr Bhatoo might file and serve any objections relating to any items in the summary statement no later than 4pm on 13 November 2017.
iii) The Queen's Proctor's costs would be summarily assessed without a hearing and the Queen's Proctor and Mr Bhatoo notified of the outcome by order.
iv) The costs are to be paid within 21days of service of the order.
My order also provided that there should otherwise be no orders for costs as between the parties to any of the petitions.
Marco Lo Grasso v Surendra Naik (ZC15D03263)
Husainbhai Mulla v Mashudabanu Akhalek Saiyed (UB11D00142)
Mohmadmubarak Mohmadhanif Motarwala v Belinda Marie Law (ZC14D01450)
Asma Kausar v Shahraz Riasat (BV15D18675)
Mubarak Iqubal Chhabu v Dimpel Pravin Patel (BV15D18664)
Gnomble Yves Lago v Seny Lydie Keleba (BV15D18650)
Nabila Dagreb v Inmran Khairbali Qureshi (ZC15D03187)
Aissata Maiga v Teddy Alain Sytadin (UB07D00408)
Felicite Yolou Logbo v Arsene Goze (UB08D00405)
Vivekkumar Harshadbhai Patel v Laetita Caroline Rebecca Benot (UB11D00479)
Vasimbhai Yakubbhai Shaikh v Foulimatta Sangarae (ZC14D04077)
Zuber Ismali Jada v Anna Danuta Lewandowska (FD13D01289)
Amina Banu Mulla v Ayub Gulam Mohamed Mulla (UB10D02113)
Husainbhai Mulla v Krutikumari Parmar (ZC14D01841)
Vivekkumar Harshadbhai Patel v Laetitia Caroline Rebecca Benot (ZC14D00100)
Sonia Razzaq v Aamir Bashir (ZC14D00099)
Dawood Shueb Mapara v Rachel Besse (FD13D05322)
Mohsin Abdul Majid Tola v Maria Maryline Migeon (FD13D01422)
Mamada Raffic Domah v Katherine Mary Willis (UB07D00108)
Alexandra Irene Violo v Olutoye Ajibola Oladigbolu (UB08D00442)
Hasmita Trivedi v Patrick Robert Roache (UB06D00126)