A babysitter has been warned she faces jail after marrying a Nigerian illegal immigrant in a sham wedding to help him stay in the UK.
Emma Louise, 34, confessed to taking part in a ‘marriage of convenience’ with Kazeem Kolade but charges that she bigamously married a second man in another sham wedding were later dropped. Burnley Crown Court heard that her marriage to Kolade was annulled so that Evans could genuinely marry her partner Stephen Akinseye, 45, in January 2013.
Initially Evans was accused of two suspected sham marriages – the first to Kolade and the second to Mr Akinseye – as well as a third charge of bigamy. Now prosecutors have accepted the second marriage was neither bigamous nor fake and dropped the second sham marriage allegation. Evans, of Burnley, Lancashire, will be sentenced for the one count of taking part in a ‘marriage of convenience’ on December 9. Adjourning the case, Judge Harry Narayan told her: ‘The fact that I am going to bail you in order for a pre-sentence report is no indication as to sentence.’All sentencing options, including a custodial sentence, remain open to the court.‘
Evans admitted taking part in the sham marriage to Kolade in order to assist his illegal immigration by deception, so the Nigerian could remain in the UK, the court heard.
The pair wed at Blackburn Register Office in July 2012. However, Evans strenuously denied bigamy, and also a third charge of taking part in a second sham marriage with Mr Akinseye at Burnley. After her case was adjourned last year for further investigations, she was able to convince prosecutors she did not go on to bigamously marry Mr Akinseye.
After making enquiries with the Nigerian High Commission, her defence counsel Mark Stuart was able to produce a divorce certificate to prove that Evans’ first marriage had been annulled.
Prosecutor Neil Bisarya said the pleas were acceptable to the Crown, after legal discussions had taken place with Mr Stuart, and further consideration of the evidence in the case.
Judge Narayan formally entered a not guilty verdict on the bigamy offence and allowed the second sham marriage charge for Mr Akinseye to lie on the court file. The former Accrington and Rossendale College and Fearns High student now faces being sentenced next month on the one sham marriage charge.
The court was not told of the whereabouts of Kolade, or whether he has now been removed from the UK. At the time of his arrest he faced deportation as his temporary visa had expired. Requesting a pre-sentence report for Evans, Mr Stuart said: ‘The defendant is a lady of good character.‘
Only last year a senior Government official warned that sham marriages are a ‘massive loophole’ in Britain’s border controls and amount to a ‘golden ticket’ into the country for immigrants. John Vine, the chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, highlighted serious failings in the way officials are attempting to combat bogus marriages.
His report found evidence it could be a ‘growing problem’, but intelligence on the true picture was ‘lagging behind’.
A significant number of sham marriages may be going undetected because register offices are failing to report suspicious couples to immigration officials, the report added.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘Registrars have a duty to report suspected sham marriages to the Home Office. ‘We are working more closely with the General Register Office to increase awareness and improve the national response.‘