A man who married his childhood sweetheart in his fifties after the pair rekindled their young love has had his marriage declared invalid by a judge as he was not capable of understanding the meaning of a lifelong commitment.

Mr Justice Bodey, sitting at the Court of Protection – a body which makes decisions and appoints deputies to act on behalf of people who are unable to make decisions about their personal health, finance or welfare – ruled that the man ‘did not have the capacity freely to decide to enter into a marriage’, according to the Sunday Times.

He added that the registrar who conducted the ceremony in November 2010 believed the groom, who had brain damage from two head injuries, knew what he was doing.

He had rekindled a relationship in 2007 and shortly before the wedding the man wrote to his mother telling her of his love for his former childhood flame.

It said: ‘Dear Mam … if it is possible I want to be living with [the woman] who is the biggest love of my life,’ he wrote.

But his fiancée did not pass the letter on, nor a second message, as she was worried his family would not approve. She also pretended she was taking him from his neurodisability unit to a museum, using the secret phrase ‘birthday tea’, when they were actually going to the register office for the first time.

In February 2011 she took her husband from his placement to live with her. A week later the local authority went to the court to have him returned.

Justice Bodey also heard she privately described the man’s mother as ‘the matriarch of the household, ruthless, cold and uncaring’.

On the day of the wedding the registrar asked the groom if he knew what was going on and he replied: ‘Yes, I am getting married’ and told people: ‘I’ve waited for her for a long time.’

A week before the man had an operation and was judged capable of signing his own consent form for the anesthetist.

The judge described the man as having a: ‘deceptive social veneer and… ability to copy with straightforward conversations’, but could not remember his spouse or their marital status except for extremely short periods of time.

The local authority which brought the case accepts that the woman loves the man and her devotion to him is not in question since November 2008, when he was hit by a bus and suffered a head injury.

She had looked into seeking compensation from the bus company, but it is understood that she told her solicitors she was willing to sign a legal agreement surrendering her right to any damages.

The judge said: ‘She has demonstrated a remarkable and creditable commitment to him, visiting him more or less daily and championing her perception of his best interests.

‘She has given up her employment as a learning support assistant for sixth form pupils in order to be available for him.’