The BBC’s Inside Out Yorkshire programme ran a story tonight on sham marriages, trailed in a BBC News item the day before. There are six days left to watch the programme on iPlayer if for some reason you would like to see it.
As with Team UK Border Force: World Police on Sky, I can’t bring myself to watch it for fear of my damaging my television. If anyone else did manage to put themselves through it, do let me know in the comments below whether there was any coverage of genuine weddings that were disrupted and ruined. I dealt with such a case just recently. The registrar at Islington Registry Office had tipped off UKBA, who failed to realise that a Certificate of Approval had already been granted and that it was an obviously genuine relationship. They duly swept in and stopped the marriage and even detained one of the parties. Can you imagine it, on what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life?
In an odd coincidence a Freedom of Information request just came back with the information on numbers of convictions in sham marriage cases. There has been a sharp increase between 2010 and 2011, with 87 in 2010 and 229 in 2011.
A breakdown of the convictions was also provided, and it makes interesting reading. Of the 229 offences in 2011, for example, 7 were for bigamy, 83 were for assisting unlawful immigration, 30 were offences under the Perjury Act 1911 for making a false statement with reference to marriage and 12 were for conspiracy. 31 convictions were for possession of a false identity document under the Identity Cards Act 2006, which suggests that the offence came to light as a result of the sham marriage rather than being intrinsically involved in it and may well represent multiple convictions for the same individual. 4 convictions are described as ‘common law’ – anyone any ideas on what that might refer to?
So there you go, sham marriages do lead to convictions and there has been a marked increase in the number convictions in the last year or so. However, the headline number of convictions probably exaggerates the total number of incidents because some of those convictions will be multiple counts against one person.