Sham wedding trial of south London vicar collapses

(Photo: Roger Kirby)

The trial of a vicar accused of presiding over a 'conveyer belt' of sham marriages between people who never met has collapsed.

The judge accused immigration officers of lying under oath, and of "serious misconduct" including the concealing of evidence.

According to Channel 4 News, the Home Office has revealed that three immigration officers have now been suspended. Upon being questioned in the witness box, "it emerged that evidence had been tampered with or concealed, possibly destroyed, video footage had gone missing, and an investigation log had been doctored."

Judge Nic Madge therefore stopped the trial. ""I am satisfied that officers at the heart of this prosecution have deliberately concealed important evidence and lied on oath," he said.

"The bad faith and misconduct started in 2011 when two of the principal defendants were arrested and has continued throughout the course of this trial.

"In my judgment, it has tainted the whole case. It has tainted the prosecution against all seven defendants. It is a case in which the prosecution should not be allowed to benefit from the serious misbehaviour of the officer in the case or the disclosure officer."

Seven defendants, including Rev Nathan Ntege, were therefore formerly acquitted of being involved in marriages set up purposefully to bypass UK immigration laws.

The marriages were alleged to have been between illegal immigrants and EU nationals with the right to live in the UK.

Attention was drawn to the church when weddings increased from six a year to six a day. On one occasion, nine weddings were booking in a single day; couples apparently queued up to say their vows and some brides even shared the same wedding gown.

Ntege, who is originally from Uganda, is said to have conducted 482 marriage ceremonies over a 15-month period at St Jude's and St Aidan's in Thornton Heath, south London.

He was also facing a fraud charge for the £69,498 of marriage fees he allegedly failed to pay the Diocese of Southwark.