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This is an odd question, I know, I’m writing a novel, know nothing about law, and would really appreciate your help.

Is this illegal (in England):

Person A looks a lot like Person B.

With Person B's consent, Person A pretends to be him. He lives his life, marries his girlfriend, lives with her, has sexual relations with her. But she doesn't know she's with Person A instead of the man she originally met, Person B.

Person A is also practicing law in place of Person B. The licence is in Person A's name, but Person B took the bar exam.

Would Person A go to jail for doing these things? What actual crimes has he committed?

*** For clarification: I understand this is a completely fictional scenario, so I'm not expecting, 'well, in the case of x versus y,' type answers. Just something plausible.

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At common law, which may no longer be the law in England, your name is what you and others use to refer to yourself.

So, even if person A was Christened "John Jacob Smith" at birth, while person B was Christened "James Bond" at birth, if person A lived his life as described using the name "James Bond", then "James Bond" would legally be one of Person A's names at common law.

But, even under that version of the law, doing something strictly as a consequence of impersonating someone else would usually be unlawful.

He lives his life, marries his girlfriend, lives with her, has sexual relations with her. But she doesn't know she's with Person A instead of the man she originally met, Person B.

There is a concept of impersonating a spouse for sex that can constitute rape but I don't think that it applies in this case, because the relationship development for the most part with person A. Particularly importantly, the girlfriend is having sex with the person she married, even if she previously dated someone whom she has confused with her current spouse. Now, if person B returned and tried to have sex with the girlfriend by pretending to be person B's imposter, that might very well be rape.

This said, it is very hard to imagine the girlfriend really couldn't tell the difference between person A and person B, because generally speaking, intimate friends of even identical twins can tell them apart. So, this premise is wildly improbable.

Person A is also practicing law in place of Person B. The licence is in Person A's name, but Person B took the bar exam.

It sounds like Person A is practicing law without a license. This is definitely unlawful, although I don't know if it is actually a crime under English law as opposed, for example, to merely constituting a civil offense or contempt of court, or some form of civil fraud.

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  • The Bar Council say "It is against the law for someone to (deliberately or wilfully) pretend to be a barrister when they are not", and I'll take their word for it; solicitors have similar rules. But here Person A actually has a licence, albeit fraudulently obtained: a fascinating point (fascinating, as Terry Pratchett points out, being lawyerspeak for "A hundred dollars a day and it'll take months"). – Tim Lymington Feb 15 '18 at 18:12
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    @TimLymington Only a hundred? – JAB Feb 15 '18 at 18:35
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    @JAB I think he meant per 6 minutes - but it’s a quote from a book with a different economy. – Dale M Feb 15 '18 at 20:14
  • ohwilleke You're an angel, thank you. I hadn't thought that he could be accused of rape. But the victim would have to bring charges of rape, and she wouldn't do that. Could a prosecutor bring charges of rape, even if the victim decided she didn't want to bring charges? Or could a prosecutor decide that he has committed too many infractions not to go to jail. Because otherwise it sounds like he hasn't done anything that he could be imprisoned for and I need him to go to jail for something. – GGx Feb 16 '18 at 6:50
  • @TimLymington Thanks!!! So, he's broken the law by pretending to be a barrister. Could he go to jail for that, or more likely just face a fine? – GGx Feb 16 '18 at 6:51

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