Immigration trio face 'lies' probe
Three immigration officers are to be criminally investigated after a judge accused them of lying during a major sham marriages trial, the police watchdog has said.
The case against Reverend Nathan Ntege collapsed in October when Judge Nic Madge said he was "satisfied" that enforcement officers had lied on oath and concealed evidence throughout the trial.
The vicar was accused of marrying almost 500 bogus couples at a church in Thornton Heath, south east London, so foreign nationals could stay in the UK.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said today that it will examine how three officers handled evidence during the course of the operation and the trial at Inner London Crown Court.
IPCC Commissioner Jennifer Izekor said: "We will be conducting a thorough, independent investigation into the serious matters the collapse of this trial has raised.
"We are assessing a substantial amount of material as part of our initial inquiries."
Prior to the collapse of the trial, the jury heard that Rev Ntege was the ''lynchpin'' of a group which facilitated a ''matrimonial conveyor belt'' at St Jude's with St Aidan Church.
Judge Madge dropped the case against all seven defendants because of "both bad faith and serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution".
He said at the time: "I am satisfied that officers at the heart of this prosecution have deliberately concealed important evidence and lied on oath.
"In my judgment, it has tainted the whole case. It has tainted the prosecution against all seven defendants."
And he added: "The misconduct of the prosecution, and in particular the officer in the case and the disclosure officer, is so serious that these two officers have left me with no option other than to exercise my discretion to stay this prosecution."
He said photographs and video footage as well as diary logs had been purposely held back from the trial.
The Home Office referred the judge's claims to the IPCC, which said it is now examining more than 100 boxes of material and trial transcripts as well as considering relevant Home Office policies.
All seven defendants denied the immigrations charges against them.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The Home Office has co-operated fully and provided the IPCC complete access to all relevant files but it would be inappropriate to comment further as this is an ongoing investigation."