Belfast Telegraph

Priest must wait for 'sham marriage' trial ruling

Former Catholic priest Pat Buckley must wait until later this year to discover if he will face trial over the accusation of conducting sham marriages.

Preliminary enquiry proceedings for the maverick cleric and 15 other defendants were put back today until June.

Even then the case is only expected to be mentioned with a view to fixing a hearing date.

Legal sources predicted the huge volume of papers could take months to get through.

Bishop Buckley (59), of The Oratory, Queen Street, Larne, is accused of officiating at up to a dozen sham marriages — a claim he categorically denies.

It is alleged that he conspired with others to defraud the Home Secretary by helping foreign nationals to gain entry to the UK on dates between January 2004 and September 2009.

He has not been charged and so far has appeared before the court by way of a summons.

The allegations are connected to a major police investigation into a suspected immigration scam.

Following a previous hearing, the cleric insisted he has never knowingly conducted a fake wedding.

He claimed the decision to prosecute was groundless and an attempt by the establishment to silence a priest who has championed marginalised members of society for 36 years.

A judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court listed the preliminary enquiry — to establish whether the defendants have a case to answer — for a further review on June 14.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph