Manchester Sham Marriage Vicar Faces Jail

13 December 2011, 16:25 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

A vicar is facing jail after admitting conducting sham marriages in Manchester which meant illegal immigrants could stay in the UK.

The Rev Canon Dr John Magumba carried out 31 bogus wedding ceremonies at two churches in Rochdale.

He pleaded guilty at Bolton Crown Court on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person.

The 58-year-old also admitted two counts of theft from his church councils by not declaring income from weddings and funerals.

Magumba, a team vicar for three churches in Rochdale, pleaded guilty to the theft of £5,400 from St Peter's Church, Newbold, and a further £2,908 from St Luke's in Deeplish.

The facts of the case were not opened on Tuesday and it is not known if any of the undeclared income was linked to the bogus ceremonies.

Judge Thomas Teague QC granted bail to the father of six, but said it was no indication of what sentence will be passed next month. Judge Teague, who will not be the sentencing judge, warned: ``He must expect to lose his liberty for some time.''

Magumba, originally from Uganda, showed no emotion as he stood in the dock wearing an open-necked grey and white shirt and beige overcoat. He was supported from the public gallery by his wife and a number of other people. A member of the group, who said he was an officer of the bishop, said the defendant was ``very upset''.

Border Agency officials believe Magumba conducted 21 bogus ceremonies at St Peter's and 10 at St Luke's between April 2008 and February this year.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester said Magumba was suspended from the Church when he was arrested in March. He added:

"The highest standards are expected from all clergy. It is extremely rare for clergy to abuse the trust placed in them by their congregation, community and bishop.''

Magumba, of Deeplish Road, Rochdale, will be sentenced at Bolton Crown Court on January 19.

Dave Magrath, a Border Agency inspector, said:

"Immigration crime poses a serious threat to the UK's immigration controls which is why the UK Border Agency is relentless in tracking down anyone who organises or benefits from such criminality - whoever they may be.''