Forest Gate vicars’ denial on sham marriages allegations

Two vicars have denied presiding over hundreds of sham marriages as part of ploy to help illegal immigrants stay in the UK.

Rev Brian Shipsides, 55, and Rev Elwon John, 50, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to facilitate breaches of immigration law between December 28, 2007 and August 4 last year.

The marriages are said to have taken place between EU and non-EU citizens who wished to gain right of address in Britain.

A third defendant, 31-year-old Amdudalat Ladipo, denies the same charge.

Ladipo earlier pleaded not guilty to a further allegation of possessing a false Nigerian passport in the name of Elizabeth Udeme Bernard on July 31 last year.

Both vicars’ bail conditions prohibit them from visiting All Saints Church in Forest Gate where they are alleged to have organised about 200 bogus weddings.

They were suspended by the Church of England following their arrests last year, and are also banned from contacting their church’s governing body except through a solicitor.

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All three are to stand trial, which is estimated to take six to seven weeks, before Inner London Crown Court on January 23 next year.

They will also attend court for a preliminary hearing on September 15.

Shipsides, of Claremont Road, Forest Gate; John, of Kennedy Road, Barking, and Ladipo, of Grosvenor Road, Dagenham, deny conspiring to facilitate breaches of immigration law.