An independent bishop who conducted 14 sham marriages to flout immigration law has avoided a prison term.
Pat Buckley, 61, helped Bangladeshi men marry Portuguese women in Northern Ireland. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, suspended for three years.
Justice Mark Horner said Buckley was an important cog in the wheel of
the conspiracy but suspended the prison sentence after hearing his long
list of medical problems - including treatment for HIV.
Horner told Buckley: "What you did was wrong. You committed a series of
serious crimes, which you did for financial reward."
The judge at Belfast
Crown Court said the defendant had lost his hard-won reputation as a
defender of the outsider and those shunned by society, which was bound
to have hit him hard.
The offences were committed between May 28 2008 and September 2 2009.
Buckley pleaded guilty earlier this month.
judge said he was paid a fee of between £300 and £350 per ceremony,
much needed at a time when he was experiencing some financial
The offences were committed after a television
documentary on sham marriages and the judge said it must have been
blindingly obvious what he was participating in.
They were ceremonies between EU and non-EU nationals who were seeking residency.
judge said: "The crimes to which you pleaded guilty are not victimless
crimes, nor do they constitute technical infringements of the criminal