Sham marriage

Sham marriage tales: not as much fun as rom-coms would have you believe


The High Court has rejected an appeal from an ex-barrister who was disbarred for deceiving the court when he fraudulently tried to obtain a divorce.

In 2020, the Bar disciplinary tribunal found that barrister Andrew Ehi Ukiwa, who was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 2010, had dishonestly sent divorce documents to a wrong address, to end a "sham" marriage.

In May 2012 Ukiwa went to Nigeria to visit his ill father. The barrister stopped in Lagos, where he met a woman with whom he had no prior relationship, having only connected with her on Facebook the previous month. The woman, described as a medical practitioner, was unnamed in the tribunal's findings.

Within a month of meeting, the pair got married, and Ukiwa supported his wife's application for a UK visa. But when Ukiwa returned to the UK shortly afterwards, he withdrew his support for the visa. The barrister told the Home Office his marriage was a “sham”, claiming that he had been “misled and deceived into marrying" his spouse, and said her "sole purpose" of marrying him was "to procure a British visa”.

Ukiwa's spouse still managed to obtain a visa, and in March 2013 she turned up at the barrister's London home, without warning. But Ukiwa refused to let her in.

Ukiwa filed for divorce in 2013, but he was required to obtain his wife's consent. The barrister deliberately sent the divorce petition to the wrong address, where an acknowledgment of service was signed by someone who wasn't his wife. The court was duped and issued a decree nisi.

Ukiwa remarried in 2014. But in 2016, the matter of the questionable divorce was heard by a family court. Ukiwa's wife, backed up by a handwriting expert, said that she had not signed the acknowledgment of service. The family court ruled that Ukiwa had fraudulently secured the divorce in 2013. 

In 2020, the Bar tribunal agreed. It found that Ukiwa had deliberately attempted to deceive the court during the attempted divorce proceedings in 2013. “This dishonesty was not only related to his wife but also it was dishonesty in relation to a court in providing a false address for her," found the tribunal, concluding that the barrister had tried to "obtain a divorce behind her back.”

The tribunal disbarred Ukiwa, saying his dishonest conduct was "prejudicial to the administration of justice, which was likely to diminish confidence in the legal profession".

Ukiwa has now appealed, He argued before the High Court that the tribunal had made a serious procedural error by departing from the finding of a court on the matter, and said the tribunal's approach to fact-finding was against the requirements of natural justice, according to a report by the Law Gazette.

However, Mrs Justice Collins Rice in the High Court rejected the appeal. The judge ruled that there had been no such jurisdictional error, and that Ukiwa had been given a proper and fair hearing. "It was from start to finish an exercise in going the extra mile to ensure that Mr Ukiwa was not subjected to prejudice or unfairness in the proceedings before it," said Collins Rice J.

The judge said that it was proven that Ukiwa had committed a fraud, as both the tribunal and family judge had found that Ukiwa had supplied the wrong address to the family court, as well as establishing a link between that address and his wife's forged signature. 

A spokesman for the Bar Standards Board told RollOnFriday: "The original tribunal decision, which has now been upheld by the High Court, reflects the fact that engaging in conduct which seeks to deceive the court, including where the barrister is a party to proceedings, is incompatible with the ethical standards that the public expect of the profession and continued membership of the Bar."

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Comments

Lord Lester 29 October 21 09:47

Cannot understand why he wasn't cleared of all wrongdoing by the BSB.

I thought that trying to put additional distance between yourself and young women was what it was all about these days... 

Marshall Hall 29 October 21 09:51

For a QC from a leading set the Bar's Star Chamber would give out a £50 fine for this.

 

ShootyOriginal 29 October 21 09:52

"against the requirements of natural justice"

i.e. "I know I haven't got a decent argument here"

BLM 29 October 21 10:35

@Marshall

Yes, can't help but think that someone who'd picked up an 'accidental wife' on holiday in the Mediterranean would get considerably more leniency from the old boys of the BSB. 

Take out the ethnicity aspect and you strongly suspect that they'd suddenly be rather more sympathetic to the issue of a good young chap attempting to extricate themselves from a career-limiting entanglement that prevented them from marrying rather better (preferably to someone whose father you went to School with).

 

Y'know, they don't say "Nigeria" in the judgement - but you can't help but feel that's the real key to it all. Again.

Anonymous 29 October 21 11:01

A bit crazy that despite telling the Home Office that he believes its a sham and a visa should not be granted, one was granted anyway. 

Anonymous 29 October 21 12:01

@09.47 - indeed, you were completely cleared of all wrongdoing by the BSB.

What makes you think that the BSB want to put distance between men and young women these days?

Lord Lester 29 October 21 15:56

@12:01 - oh no, you misunderstand me. That's not what I'm saying the BSB wants as an institution.

 

What I'm saying is that progressives, hippies, long-haired weirdos, and feminazis want that; and that they have, between them, infiltrated the highest echelons of Western society - including the BSB - and need to be urgently purged from our midst. With violence if necessary.

Anon 29 October 21 17:38

Lord Lester 29 October 21 09:47: except you weren’t cleared of wrongdoing. Only given clearance to practise. 

Asking for a friend 29 October 21 19:42

2013.  No fault divorce in the UK? I’m not a divorce lawyer. Just asking for a friend…

Anonymous 29 October 21 23:07

@17.38 - except he was cleared, cementing his status as a victim of a witch-hunt.

Anon 30 October 21 09:25

Anonymous 29 October 21 23:07: cleared to practise, yes. But not of the findings of the House of Lords that he harassed a lady and abused his position.

Anonymous 30 October 21 10:58

@9.25 - there were no such findings, the House of Lords didn't find him guilty of harassing anyone or abusing anything. Indeed, the House of Lords voted that he had been the victim of an unfair process. He was subsequently cleared by the BSB of any wrongdoing.

Anon 01 November 21 05:59

Anon 30 October 21 09:25: nobody rational or acting in good faith would disagree with this.

Anonymous 01 November 21 10:18

@09.40 - one squillion percent correct. Impossible for any right-thinking member of civilised society to disagree. 

I've got both of my thumbs up, and all of my fingers, and then I've elevated my thumbs even further to ensure that there remains clearance between them and the remainder of my digits which, as I say, are already in an upwards position on account of me having raised them in agreement with your point. Which is unassailable.

Game, set and QED.

Observer 01 November 21 11:59

What Lester did was appalling and he rightly paid a heavy reputational price for his behaviour. 

Anonymous 01 November 21 13:46

Nobody rational or acting in good fairh would disagree with Anonymous 31 October 21 12:52. 

Anonymous 01 November 21 22:37

@Observer - the BSB didn't find he did anything. He didn't pay a reputational price with them. If anything his treatment enhanced his reputation.

Observer 02 November 21 07:19

Anonymous 01 November 21 15:29: apart from harassing a woman and abusing his positon.

Intergalactic Travellers 02 November 21 12:14

Hello Earthlings,

Just tuning in from outer space to say that an overwhelming majority of sentient life, drawn from all across the known universe, agrees unconditionally with the views and sentiments of the poster transmitting as "Anonymous 01 November 21 13:46".

Only an exceptionally primitive lifeform would disagree.

Salutations,

Anonymous 02 November 21 12:27

@8.13 - yes, quite, the multiple down voting by the same oerson speaks for itself.

City 02 November 21 13:33

Anonymous 02 November 21 12:27: always a mistake to say that a single person is downvoting multiple times. It makes your argument look weak and undeveloped.

 

Anon 02 November 21 14:58

Nice to see the creepy, bad faith apologist for Lord Lester overwhelmingly voted against in these comments.

Anonymous 02 November 21 16:13

I can't figure out which possibility horrifies me more, that there are still over a dozen people reading this and studiously voting each post to indicate which side of the 'debate' they concur with, or that there's just two lunatics locked in endless tit-for-tat battle with each other repeatedly upvoting their own posts.

Anonymous 02 November 21 22:39

@Intergalactic Travellers is spot on. I wonder how many multiple downvotes they'll get.

Anon 03 November 21 04:49

Anonymous 02 November 21 12:27: the BSB were not considering whether Lord Lester had done what he was found to have done by the House of Lords: that question was settled by the House of Lords. The issue for the BSB was whether, even though Lord Lester was guilty of harassment and abuse of position, he should be allowed to continue to practise as a barrister. The BSB did permit him to do so.

Anonymous 03 November 21 13:03

Anonymous 01 November 21 22:35 - absolutely right.

Anonymous 01 November 21 22:37 - spot on.

Anonymous 03 November 21 13:04

@City @ 13.33 - except when the same person is downvoting multiple times. Then the argument looks string and well developed.

Anonymous 03 November 21 13:07

2nd @ 14.58 - agreed, its creepy to suggest that Lord Lester needs an apology. That's why those suggesting he has 'apologists' have lost the debate.

Anonymous 03 November 21 13:13

Anonymous 02 November 21 16:13 - says you, stopping by to read it and post a lengthy comment.

Anonymous 03 November 21 13:59

@04.49/13.33 - actually the House of Lords didn't find the victim guilty of harassment and abuse of position. They did find that the victim had been subject to an unfair process, such process leading to his retirement from the House of Lords on health grounds, cementing his status as a victim. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was cleared by the BSB, given the earlier vote by the House of Lords that the process was unfair and given that the House of Lords never found him guilty of harassment and abuse of position.

Anon 03 November 21 17:55

The House of Lords upheld the findings of the Committee and recommended that Lord Lester be suspended. He resigned before that suspension could be implemented.

The initial vote was that the process was unfair. The matter was then remitted to the Committee to reconsider; the Committee concluded the process was fair; the Lords then reconsidered the matter and voted to approve the conclusion of the Committee that the process was fair. So the Lords decided the process was fair.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-12-17/debates/E9E8AE1E-3CD4-4166-BCF9-0765260054A9/PrivilegesAndConductCommittee

“The Senior Deputy Speaker

The noble Lord said that there were six contemporaneous witnesses. We invite Members to read their accounts.

In her own words,

“on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses”,

the commissioner found that Jasvinder Sanghera was a victim of sexual harassment and that Lord Lester was guilty of a grave abuse of power. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct reviewed and endorsed this view. We ask the House to do the same. I hope the House will now agree to this report.

Motion agreed.”

Lord Lester was not “cleared” by the BSB. He was given clearance to practise, which is difference. It was decided by the BSB that, despite being found guilty of sexual harassment and abuse of position, that conduct was not worthy of professional sanction. Nothing decided by the BSB interfered with the findings of the House of Lords that Lord Lester was guilty of harassment and abuse of position.

The Times made this clear in their corrective article:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/corrections-and-clarifications-lqz3n72pw

“The headline to our article “Lord Lester cleared of peerage-for-sex claims” (News, last week) incorrectly suggested, when read alone, that Ms Jasvinder Sanghera’s complaint to the House of Lords about Lord Lester’s conduct may have been dismissed. The article reported on the outcome of an investigation into Lord Lester by the Bar Standards Board. The findings of an earlier House of Lords committee are unaffected by this ruling. We apologise for any distress caused.”

Anon 03 November 21 17:58

Anonymous 03 November 21 13:59: the BSB were not considering whether Lord Lester had done what he was found to have done by the House of Lords: that question was settled by the House of Lords. The issue for the BSB was whether, even though Lord Lester was guilty of harassment and abuse of position, he should be allowed to continue to practise as a barrister. The BSB did permit him to do so.

Anonymous 03 November 21 22:44

@13.44 - my argument resembles string because it ties you in knots.

You argument does indeed resemble a broken pencil: pointless!

Anonymous 04 November 21 05:00

These tit for tat exchanges really are depressing. I don’t know what is worse: the repeated, wrong, bad faith suggestion that Lord Lester was acquitted by the House of Lords and the BSB, or the fact that the other person feels the need constantly to point out what we all know anyway: that Lester was guilty of harassment and abuse of position.

Move on, both of you.

Anonymous 04 November 21 11:56

Anon 03 November 21 14:46 - agreed, Anon 02 November 21 14:58 is absolutely wrong.

Anonymous 04 November 21 11:58

Anon 03 November 21 17:58: actually the House of Lords didn't find the victim guilty of harassment and abuse of position. They did find that the victim had been subject to an unfair process, such process leading to his retirement from the House of Lords on health grounds, cementing his status as a victim. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was cleared by the BSB, given the earlier vote by the House of Lords that the process was unfair and given that the House of Lords never found him guilty of harassment and abuse of position.

Anonymous 04 November 21 12:01

@5.00 - these tit for tat exchanges really are depressing. Lord Lester wasn't acquitted by the House of Lords - he was found to have been the victim of an unfair process. The House of Lords didn't find him guilty of anything. So there was nothing to aquitaine him of. The BSB did clear him. The other person feels the need constantly to try to deny what we all know anyway: that Lester was not found guilty of harassment and abuse of position by the House of Lords

Move on you.

Anonymous 04 November 21 12:49

@ 3rd November @ 17.55 - but that is simply not true.

The House of Lords didnt uphold the findings of the Committee, they voted that the process was unfair. The Committee made no findings - the Commissioner both conducted the investigation and made the findings. That is one of the reasons the process was unfair. If you think the Committee made any findings then its no wonder you're getting so much else wrong.

The victim resigned due to the impact on his health that the unfair process had on him (he was in his 80s at the time). There was no pending suspension at the time he resigned, at that point the Lords had voted the process unfair and sent the matter back to the Committee to reconsider. 

After the victim resigned due to the impact on his health the Committee said that they thought that the process which they were responsible for was fair. There was no second vote, the Lords merely agreed that the Committee said they thought the process was fair. The Lords didn't say they thought the process was fair or overturn the first vote stating that it was not. If you think there was a second vote then its no wonder you're getting so much else wrong.

So the victim was never found guilty of sexual harassment or abuse of position by the House of Lords, which is quite possibly why the BSB cleared him, as reported in The Times and elsewhere.

Anon 04 November 21 12:52

Anon 03 November 21 17:55: thank you for that. Proves that the creepy apologist for Lord Lester is absolutely wrong on the facts.

Anon 04 November 21 13:00

Anon 03 November 21 17:58: yes, and what you say is proved by the excerpts from Hansard and The Times' article posted by Anon 03 November 21 17:55.

Anon 04 November 21 13:03

Ms Sanghera is the victim here. Can’t have been nice to be harassed and offered a peerage in exchange for sex. Horrible.

Anonymous 04 November 21 14:37

@05:00 - I just don't agree with that.

The thing that's so fascinating about the ongoing Lord Lester saga is how much new material comes to light every week. No two discussions about it are ever the same.

It's a constantly evolving story that we're only just beginning to understand, and I think we're still years away from getting the bottom of it all.

You only need to look at the volume of comments to see the fascination that it holds for the public at large. 

Anon 04 November 21 15:55

Anon 03 November 21 17:55: exactly, when the House of Lords voted for the second time, they approved the decision of the Committee that Lester was guilty and had been proved to be guilty further to a fair process.

And as The Times made clear, nothing decided by the BSB - which merely gave the disgraced Peer clearance to practise - altered that fact.

Anonymous 04 November 21 15:59

@12.49 - thanks for that. Proves how creepy it is to think Lester needs an apologist.

Anon 04 November 21 16:00

Anonymous 04 November 21 14:37: there is nothing new, sadly. Just a couple of losers who want to prove a point. The facts are clear, as evidenced by Hansard and the BSB decision: Anthony Lester was found guilty by the House of Lords of harassment and abuse of position; despite those findings, he was later given clearance to practise by his professional regulator.

 

Anonymous 04 November 21 16:02

@11.58 - yes, and what you say about him not being found guilty by the House of Lords and being cleared by the BSB is proved by the excerpts from Hansard and The Times' article.

Anonymous 04 November 21 16:04

@13.03 - but the House of Lords found Lester was subject to an unfair process. He was subsequently cleared by the BSB. He is a victim here.

Observer 04 November 21 16:20

The process was as follows:

(1) Commissioner finds Lester guilty of harassment and abuse of position, and recommends suspension;

(2) Lester appeals to the Committee;

(3) The Committee finds that the process before the Commissioner was fair, that there was no error in her findings, and that Lester should be suspended;

(4) House of Lords votes that the process before the Commisioner was unfair and remits the fairness issue for further consideration by the Committee;

(5) The Committee decides that the process before the Commisioner was fair;

(6) The House of Lords votes to (a) approve the decision of the Committee in (5) that the process before the Commisioner was fair, and (b) suspend Lester;

(7) Lester resigns before suspension could be implemented;

(8) BSB decides that, despite his being guilty of harassment and abuse of position, he should be allowed to continue to practise.

 

Anonymous 04 November 21 20:00

This is not going very well for the commenter talking about 'creepy apologists' for Lord Lester and then upvoting their own comments multiple times.

Anonymous 04 November 21 23:29

The House of Lords didn't find the victim guilty of harassment and abuse of position. They did find that the victim had been subject to an unfair process, such process leading to his retirement from the House of Lords on health grounds, cementing his status as a victim. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was cleared by the BSB, given the earlier vote by the House of Lords that the process was unfair and given that the House of Lords never found him guilty of harassment and abuse of position.

Anonymous 05 November 21 07:39

Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia was correct in the House of Lords on 15th November 2018 when she said:

"I am not against women coming forward—indeed, I encourage it—but to be balanced, the accused person must be given the right to answer fairly and be investigated. That is justice. I fear that if we do not support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will be expelled from this House without having had the opportunity to have the accuser’s evidence forensically tested. In the practice in which I operate, which is not a criminal practice, written statements are put in the bin unless the person who wrote them goes in the witness box to stand for them and be cross-examined on them. This is a very serious allegation. We should rethink whether we are proud of the way it has been handled and whether it really is justice".

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