A man has been spared jail over a sham marriage plot in Northern Ireland.
ohammad Umair was handed a 16-month prison sentence suspended for two years on Friday.
He was only arrested after the warrant was found in the desk of a PSNI officer after he had retired.
Umair pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration by “entering into a marriage of convenience”.
Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard the offence was detected on July 3, 2012 when Umair flew from Pakistan to Northern Ireland to meet a woman who was providing him passage to the UK.
After he was charged, Umair (30), of Halifax Road, Brielfield, Nelson in Lancashire, later failed to attend court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
Judge Geoffrey Miller KC said the case should have been dealt with 10 years ago and Umair was “hiding in plain sight in the North of England”.
He asked why it had taken 10 years to execute the warrant, defence counsel Jonathan Browne said that the warrant had been found in the desk of a PSNI officer after he had retired.
He said the PSNI sergeant who found the warrant made contact with the defendant’s solicitor and arrangements were made for Umair to return to Northern Ireland to have the bench warrant executed.
“He was hiding in plain sight of police but he had not come to any negative attention in those 10 years,” said Mr Browne.
“He now has effective leave to remain in the UK and that has to be renewed every two-and-a-half years. He has no criminal record.
“He is now married and has children who are British citizens. His wife is of British nationality and attends court with him today.”
Judge Miller said it was clear Umair and the woman from a Baltic state had flown separately to Northern Ireland “in order to effect what was always going to be a sham marriage with the intention to procure status to allow him to remain in the UK”.
“That was discovered by the authorities in advance of the sham wedding and you were later interviewed about the matter.
“You were subsequently indicted and you were due before Downpatrick Crown Court in December 2012 but you failed to attend and a warrant was issued for your arrest.
“It wasn’t until 10 years later that you voluntarily attended this court and entered a guilty plea to the single count which is a serious offence.”
Handing down the suspended prison sentence, Judge Miller warned Umair that if he committed any further offences in the next two years, the case would be brought back before him, and he would have little option but to impose the 16-month custodial sentence.