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East London vicar sentenced to 4-1/2 years imprisonment for immigration fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, April 13, 2012, p 3. April 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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The Inner London Crown Court has sentenced the Rev. Brian Shipsides to four-and-a-half years imprisonment for immigration fraud.

On 3 April 2012 the court passed sentence on Mr. Shipsides, vicar of All Saints Church in Forest Gate in East London and his co-defendant, Ms. Amdudalat Ladipo, following their 22 Feb 2012 conviction of conspiring to facilitate entry and to obtain indefinite leave to remain in the UK in breach of immigration law by allegedly conducting approximately 200 sham marriages between December 2007 and July 2010.

A second co-defendant, the parish curate the Rev. Elwon John, was exonerated by the court and found to have had no knowledge or role in the immigration fraud scheme

After having received a tip that the parish church was being used to conduct the sham marriages, officers of the Metropolitan Police and the U.K. Border Agency raided the church on 31 July 2010.  An examination of the church’s records led to the arrest of the two priests and Ms Lapido.

Ms. Ladipo, who served as the “fixer” – arranging the false marriages between EU residents and immigrants seeking British residency – has been jailed for three years.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Shipsides exploited a “loophole” in British law where those marrying in the Church of England are not required to obtain a certificate of approval from the Home Office ahead of a marriage.

The prosecution stated “most of the so-called couples participating in those marriage ceremonies were not actually couples at all and they were not married in that church because they wished to spend their lives together and sought the blessing of the church upon their union.”

“Rather, it is clear that most of the persons married at All Saints Church, Forest Gate, during the indictment period went through a ceremony of marriage for very different reasons – for the purposes of this immigration scam whose ultimate purpose was to enable one of the persons participating in the ceremony to obtain enhanced rights to enter and live in the United Kingdom,” prosecutor David Walbank told the court.

Mr. Shipsides hid the magnitude of his crimes from his congregation and the diocese by not reading the banns of marriage, and pocketing the fees from the marriage.  However, the sharp rise in marriages reported led to questions by the diocese.

“In at least one instance, such a concern was felt about one particular wedding that Rev. Shipsides was instructed [by the diocese] in terms that it should not go ahead,” Mr. Walbank said.

“He responded in due course that he had cancelled that wedding. That was a lie. He had in fact gone ahead and conducted the ceremony despite being instructed not to do so,” the prosecutor said.

Mr Shipsides conduct left the Church of England “open to abuse by those cynical and unscrupulous enough” to exploit marriage laws, he said.

In handing down his sentence, Judge Peter Grobel told Mr. Shipsides: “Your important role in this conspiracy was a disgraceful abuse of your calling as an ordained minister of the Church.  This was a conspiracy to breach the United Kingdom’s immigration laws by arranging sham marriages.”

“These marriages took place in your church. Your church where you had been the priest in charge for many years,” the judge said, adding “your criminal conduct appears to have been motivated as much by arrogance as by greed.”

“There really is no mitigation in respect of this type of offending which undermines UK immigration law, threatens the benefit system and exploits the lives of many vulnerable and desperate people,” the judge held.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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