The trial of Rev Nathan Ntege, a vicar accused of conducting nearly 500 weddings of fake couples at his south-east London church has collapsed. For the reasons behind bringing the trial to an end, the judge cited “bad faith and serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution.” Six defendants who were being tried alongside Mr Ntege in relation to the fake wedding scandal have also seen the cases against them fall apart.
Judge Nic Madge, presiding over the case, said that the problems stretched back to the arrest of two of the defendants in June 2011. Starting at this point, Madge said, that misconduct on the part of the prosecution had “continued throughout the course of this trial.”
Rev Ntege, who lives in Thornton Heath, was accused of operating a “matrimonial conveyer belt,” marrying fake couples in order to falsely aid their immigration into the UK. According to the prosecution, suspicions began when it was noticed that the church was hosting an “inordinate number” of weddings; six a day when previously there had only been six a year. The charges against Rev Ntege included one count of fraud and 14 counts of facilitating breaches of immigration legislation.
However, serious allegations of misconduct have arisen against the prosecution, causing the trial to fall apart. Judge Nic Madge said: “I am satisfied that officers at the heart of this prosecution have deliberately concealed important evidence and lied on oath.” It has been claimed that important evidence has been hidden from the court, tampered with, and destroyed altogether.
This includes efforts to ensure the court did not see important video evidence filmed at the church in question, along with photographs taken at the associated vicarage where Rev Ntege resided. Tampering with evidence included alterations to the investigation log chronicling the case during the period from July-December 2012, with the existence of some entries being hidden from the court.
Furthermore, when questioned about this evidence, officers in the courtroom lied under oath.
“If the trial were to be permitted to continue,” Madge said, “there is a real risk that public faith in the criminal justice system would be undermined.”
He concluded: “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.”
The judge’s decision has been accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service. The Home Office called the events “an extremely disappointing end to a long investigation.”
The case has resulted in the suspension of three officers, and has been passed on to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.