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The Criminal Code (Part Seven)

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This week we continue to highlight and to enlighten you on some other aspects of the Criminal Code. According to section 5 of this Criminal Code, “ignorance of the law does not afford any excuse for any act or omission which would otherwise constitute an offence, unless knowledge of the law by the offender is expressly declared to be an element of the offence”.{{more}} This week we look at Parts 9 and 10 which deal with abortion and offences relating to marriage.


If you give to a woman with child any poison or noxious thing, or use force of any kind, or use any means whatsoever with an intention of procuring a miscarriage, you do so unlawfully, and if found guilty you would be liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.

If a medical practitioner terminates a pregnancy in a hospital or other establishment approved by the Chief Medical Officer for that purpose, then that person would not be guilty, provided it is the opinion, formed in good

faith, by two medical practitioners, that “the life of the pregnant woman is at risk, or that there would be injury to her mental or physical health or any existing children of the family if the pregnancy is not terminated. The pregnancy could also be terminated if there is substantial risk that “if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormality as to be seriously handicapped.”

A pregnancy that is terminated in a hospital or other approved establishment because of rape or incest would not attract any punishment for the person who does it.

The woman who has the intent to procure her own miscarriage by taking poison or any substance to do so is guilty of an offence, and if found guilty is liable to imprisonment of seven years. The person who supplies the substance to afford the miscarriage is also liable to imprisonment for five years.

Offences relating to Marriage

If you are married and you marry another person while your wife or husband is alive, you would have committed bigamy, and if found guilty for the offence, you would be liable to imprisonment for seven years.

You would not be guilty of the offence if your spouse were continually absent for seven years or if you believe on reasonable ground that the party is dead, or where the marriage is dissolved or declared to be void or the court makes a decree of nullity. The law provides for a divorce on grounds such as desertion for two years, and separation for five years, among others.

If you are a woman, then the law against fraudulent acts protects you. If you are made to believe that you are married to a man when you are actually not married to him and you cohabit with him, or have sexual intercourse with him in the belief that you are married, then the man would, if found guilty of the offence, be liable to imprisonment for seven years.

Any person who pretends to be a marriage officer is guilty of an offense and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]