London vicar sentenced for UK spouse visa sham

28 Nov 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A London vicar has been sentenced for his role in more than 100 sham marriages orchestrated for UK spouse visa access.

Church of England Minister, Reverend Brian Shipsides, from Forest Gate, was arrested by officers in August 2010 following an investigation into a number of suspicious ceremonies conducted by the minister at the All Saints Church in Forest Gate.

A judge at the Inner London Crown Court sentenced Shipsides to 4.5 years imprisonment in April this year and a judge sitting at the same court has now ruled that the value of the minister's criminal conduct was £29,382. The judge ordered that Shipsides must pay £10,792 to the state as well as serving jail time.

Simon Prankard, of the UK Border Agency, commented: “I am extremely pleased the court has ordered Shipsides to repay this money. By carrying out these weddings, not only was he lining his own pockets but also abusing the high degree of trust others had placed in him.

“Hopefully this ruling will send out a clear message that not only will we investigate and secure convictions for those involved in this type of criminality, we will also go after the profits they make. This is a successful conclusion to what was a long and complex investigation.”

Investigations revealed that 250 weddings had taken place at the All Saints Church in the 2.5 years preceding the arrest. The vast majority of these involved Nigerian nationals marrying European nationals. In the same time period prior to 2007, just 15 weddings had taken place, alerting the authorities that something wasn't quite right.

Shipsides has admitted a charge of conspiring to facilitate breaches of UK immigration law, while his co-defendant, a Nigerian 'wedding fixer' named Amudalat Ladipo, was convicted of the same offence and a further charge of possessing a false ID document.

While UK spouse visas are still available as an immigration route, the government has made the stipulations for access tougher, including increasing the minimum salary required to sponsor a partner.