In the Media

Bride and groom led down aisle in handcuffs

PUBLISHED March 14, 2012

Pole Helena Puchalska, 20, was arrested in her wedding dress as she said her vows to Pakistani Asif Ali, 31.

Yesterday Puchalska was jailed for 15 months while Ali was caged for two years after they admitted taking part in the sham wedding.

Sentencing the pair at Northampton Crown Court, Judge Richard Bray said: "You were caught undergoing a sham marriage for the purposes of immigration.

"This is a serious offence, not only because it breaches our immigration laws but because of the aggravating feature that it strikes at the sanctity of marriage.

"Such offences are still prevalent today as anyone who reads the newspapers knows.

"Sentences of some length are needed for such blatant and cynical offending.

"You, Ali, were the instigator and had most to gain. You are intelligent and knew perfectly well what you were doing. You, Puchalska, went along with this enterprise for money."

The court heard Ali was facing deportation and paid Puchalska £2,500 to be his wife so he could remain in Britain by marrying an EU Citizen.

But officers from the UK Border Agency's Criminal and Financial Investigations Team arrested the pair as they attempted to tie the knot at Northampton Guildhall on December 22 last year.

After they were arrested the couple protested their innocence claiming they fell in love after meeting in a nightclub in March last year.

Ali told officers he proposed at his home in October after cooking Puchalska a curry and serving her vodka in honour of her Polish heritage.

The court heard Ali did not know the name of Puchalska's home town and said all she had told him about Poland was that it was cold, had forests and that Polish food consisted of soup and ham.

He also misspelt the name of his wife-to-be on the marriage forms.

Meanwhile all Puchalska could say about Ali was that his hobby was driving.

The couple admitted conspiring to facilitate a breach of the UK's immigration laws when they appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday.

A registrar reported the wedding to the UK Border Agency after he became suspicious about the lack of interaction between the couple when they attended a meeting to plan the ceremony.

Police discovered a note in Ali's car intended for his real girlfriend.

It read: "I married Hela Puchalska Bcoz (sic) of papers and I love Anna a lot. I make deal with her for £2,500."

Joe Spicer, prosecuting, said: "There was a ceremony planning meeting on December 19 at which the registrar became concerned this wedding did not appear to be genuine.

"She noticed Ali was answering all the questions and the bride appeared to be entirely disinterested in what was to take place. There was also no intimacy or contact between them."

After the hearing, a UK Border Agency spokesman said: "As they pleaded guilty, the notes were not subject to handwriting analysis so we cannot say they were definitively written by Ali but it's true to say they were found in the boot of his car."

Inspector Andy Radcliffe, of the UK Border Agency's Criminal and Financial Investigations team, said: "This was a marriage of convenience - convenient for Puchalska because it would have lined her pockets and convenient for Ali because it was a means to UK residency."