Celebrant pleads guilty to marrying unconscious, dying Rockingham woman

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A WARNBRO marriage celebrant who presided over the wedding of an unconscious, dying woman is facing possible deregistration.

Celebrant Diane Caratozzolo-Waddington last month received a penalty equivalent to a good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to a charge of purporting to solemnise a marriage.

Her court appearance came nearly two years after the wedding in which a Rockingham woman, who was terminally ill with cancer, never regained consciousness and died shortly after the ceremony.

Caratozzolo-Waddington did not speak during her appearance in Rockingham Magistrates Court and did not return phone calls to the Courier this week.

In court, her lawyer said the celebrant had always tried her best in performing more than 300 previous wedding ceremonies with no prior criminal history.

A Commonwealth prosecutor outlined the events of October 7, 2015, the day Caratozzolo-Waddington went to the Rockingham house shared by the man and woman where she was to perform a marriage ceremony.

The court heard the woman was unconscious when the celebrant arrived and did not regain consciousness at any stage throughout the ceremony.

“She was unable to articulate vows and she was unable to indicate or acknowledge she understood,” the prosecutor said.

“The accused asked the male if he took the female as his lawful wedded wife and he said ‘I do’. At this point she (Caratozzolo-Waddington) stopped and said ‘Oh, she can’t answer but I know she wanted to get married when I saw her before’.”

When it was time to sign the marriage certificate, Caratozzolo-Waddington indicated to the man to put a pen in the unconscious woman’s hand and sign an ‘X’ for her signature.

He then signed her signature by tracing over her name from a previous bit of paper that had her signature on it.

Two days later, Caratozzolo-Waddington lodged the official marriage certificate, a declaration of no legal impediment to marry and a notice of intended marriage with the Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

It remains unclear whether the couple’s marriage remains lawful and what the legal status is of her estate.

According to the Marriage Act (1961), a person shall not solemnise a marriage, or purport to solemnise a marriage, if they have reason to believe that there is a legal impediment to the marriage or if the person has reason to believe the marriage would be void.

While the maximum penalty for doing so is a $500 fine or six months imprisonment, Magistrate Vivian Edwards sentenced Carratozzolo-Waddington to a Commonwealth recognisance order of $1800 for 12 months.

Her name remains on the Commonwealth Registrar of Marriage Celebrants but a spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department confirmed her status was under review.

The Registrar can impose a range of disciplinary measures from a formal caution through to temporary suspension or deregistration.

The celebrant, whose business Heart and Soul Celebrations has been registered for 10 years, also remains a member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants.

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